Spank plays Jan. 31 at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center.
Spank plays Jan. 31 at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center. (SUBMITTED)
Spank.

Go ahead. Say it. You know it feels good.

What? No need to turn fifty shades of scarlet. This won't hurt - promise.

"Spank!" is the title of a new comedic musical opening Jan. 31 at York's Strand-Capitol Performing Art Center. It parodies the hyper sexualized "Fifty Shades of Grey" series by E. L. James, which millions couldn't put down last year.

The book, which is being turned into a movie, veers into NC-17 territory and beyond. But the unauthorized stage production is more silly than steamy.

"There is a reasonable amount of spanking," said Gabe Bowling, the male lead who plays a version of the devious Christian Grey from the book.

"He is based on that character," Bowling added about his stage incarnation. "He's just a lot more playful and fun. When you kind of find (the show) hot, you're still going to find it hilarious."

Bowling said he wasn't interested in reading the James books, which friends described as guilty pleasures, until it became part of his professional life. Only then did he realize that it had the right cocktail of factors to become a best-seller.

With one-dimensional characters, a few plot turns and lots of racy description, he blew through it.

"It's like a really bad horror movie; you can still enjoy yourself," Bowling said. "This lady is in no danger of winning a Pulitzer Prize."

Passages of the story might lead to nervous giggling, just as the stage show leads to spontaneous song. Bowling said most of the show is dialogue, but it does feature some dancing, singing, wardrobe pranks and props. Let your imagination run wild.

"This is not a show for a timid actor," Bowling said.

Each member of the three-person cast has to be on point, he added. Rehearsals are intense. The characters take themselves seriously, but they say and do ridiculous things.

"It's hard not to crack up," Bowling admitted. "You have to (practice) until the words stop meaning anything to you."

When he first read the script, he said it was hilarious. He heard about the show while visiting friends in Chicago and immediately emailed his agent in Los Angeles to try to land an audition.

Even though he plays several instruments and writes songs, Bowling said he's focused on TV and commercial work. But he keeps coming across musical projects.

His resume includes the live rock 'n' roll production "Million Dollar Quartet" and, of course, the touring "Spank!" show. Its combination of comedy, acting and music challenges him. And don't forget about the bondage.

"It's all done through some sort of medium that makes it completely watchable," Bowling said. "You're not seeing anything dirty. It's always implied in a very humorous way."

So it will appeal to those who were too timid or too skeptical to pick up the "Fifty Shades" novels.

"You could literally go to the show and not have heard of the book," Bowling said. "It loosely used the blueprint of the book ... but it stands alone."

But what about masks, handcuffs, silk ties and whips? Not in this magazine.

Save those for the fictional "Fifty Shades" protagonist Anastasia Steele or her farcical counterpart.

- ERIN McCRACKEN,
FlipSide staff

If you go

See "Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody" 8 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, 50 N. George St., York.

The unauthorized musical parody brings E. L. James' best-selling "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy to life. There will be pre-show cocktails and a chance to meet the cast after the performance.

Tickets cost $33.50, $38.50 and $43.50. The show is a rental presentation, so some Strand box office policies might not apply.

For details and tickets, call 717-846-1111 or visit mystrandcapitol.org.

The year in 'Fifty Shades'

"Fifty Shades of Grey" is a 2011 erotic novel by British author E. L. James. Due to the heightened interest in the series, Vintage Books licensed the trilogy for re-release in April 2012. The books dominated best-seller lists for months.

March: The Associated Press reports the novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" has a movie deal: Universal Pictures and Focus Features acquire the rights to the bestselling erotic novel. In a joint announcement, Universal and Focus call the word-of-mouth sensation a "special story."

May: York County's public library system receives no complaints about the book "Fifty Shades of Grey" and doesn't plan to pull it from the shelves, according to Community Relations Director Deb Sullivan. The Associated Press reports that public libraries in some states pulled it or stopped ordering it because, they say, it's "too steamy or poorly written."

Later that month, The Associated Press deems York a "hotbed" for the erotic novels. An excerpt from the article read: Meagan Feeser ... in York, Pa., is a Kindle kind of Grey girl. Turns out Feeser lives in a hotbed for "Fifty Shades," according to the book site Goodreads, one of the first places where the phenom surfaced. The site looked at readership among 8.6 million members around the country to see which areas are the most Grey, weighting the data to account for population and membership fluctuations.

July: A hotel in London replaces copies of the Bible with "Fifty Shades of Grey" in its guestrooms.

August: Excitement Video and Toys hosts a female-only promotion night, dubbed "Fifty Shades of Excitement." It offers giveaways and demonstrations based on "Fifty Shades of Grey."

November: "Fifty Shades of Chicken: A Parody in a Cookbook," is released. Miss Chicken finds herself at the mercy of an insatiable chef, who craves a free-range relationship and succulent thigh meat. The book's tantalizing recipes and food photos will steam up readers' kitchens. Hopefully, its gluttony of sexual innuendoes won't turn off your stomach.

December: The erotic trilogy influences moms (and moms-to-be) in a new way: Baby names. BabyCenter, a parenting and pregnancy website, releases the top 100 baby names for 2012. Names including Grey, Gray, Anastasia and Ana all make significant jumps.

Excerpt of a review of 'Fifty Shades'

Editor's Note: This review contains some spoilers.

Heads up: This book contained mature subject matter, which I will hint at in my review.

If you are trying to torpedo a relationship and have a truly spectacular failure of human interaction, please, by all means, take relationship advice from "Fifty Shades of Grey."

The novel is about a college senior, Anastasia Steele, and the start of her relationship with billionaire Christian Grey. After meeting Christian while conducting an interview in place of her friend for their school paper, he pursues her and expresses interest in starting a relationship. The relationship turns out to be an unusual one, as Christian has interests in unconventional sex.

He shows Ana his "Red Room of Pain," which includes whips, chains, etc. Even though Ana is a virgin, she is not deterred at the prospect of possibly injurious sex with him because he's hot and has lots of money. Christian buys Ana a laptop, a BlackBerry and a car. The two have lots of sex and communicate all of the serious aspects of their relationship via email. In the end, Christian beats Ana with a belt and she goes back to her apartment and cries. And that's how the book ends.

I can't say I wasn't disturbed by this book. But what might have been disturbing to others didn't bother me. While librarians might have highlighted all of the sex

sequences in order to classify it as erotica and ban the book from the shelves, the sex was the only redeeming part of the book. The scenes held their own. It was sex between two consenting adults.

The hitting/beating/flogging is never OK. The worst part was that Ana had no previous sexual encounters, so how could she discern that her relationship with Christian was appropriate for her? She talked herself into it and, by the end, it really wasn't for her. Christian's behavior was terrifying. He drew up a contract to outline the things he wanted out of his and Ana's dominant/submissive relationship, which is a pretty common part of a d/s relationship.

Perhaps the most disturbing part was the email messages back and forth between the couple. Ana and Christian could never communicate their thoughts and feelings when they were face-to-face. The only way they communicated about Christian's lifestyle was via email, and that's no way to address serious issues. Ana was an independent woman in the beginning of the novel. By the end, she was a co-dependent, sobbing, insecure mess. I feel like Christian was gaslighting both Ana and me - tricking her into feeling he was all she deserved and making me feel like he was all that can be expected out of men in literature today.

- Caryn Rupert
Get more books news and read reviews of the other "Fifty Shades" books - "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" - at www.yorkblog.com/books.