When theater producer Marshall Cordell read reports that there was a rope shortage spawned by the success of E.L. James' erotic best-seller "Fifty Shades of Grey," he quickly decided to become creative bedfellows with collaborators Albert Samuels and Emily Dorezas.
The result is the musical parody "50 Shades! The Musical!" The pop culture spoof opens Tuesday at Marines' Memorial Theatre in The City for a limited run.
"Marshall left me this voice-mail message that the country was running out of rope because of the erotic things found in the book, and he was entertaining the idea of investigating rope factories in China to take advantage of that," Dorezas says. "But it quickly turned into something that might be a fun thing to make light of."
The result inspired Dorezas and Samuels, who both hail from the acclaimed improvisational musical group Baby Wants Candy, to write a "50 Shades" parody in three weeks' time. After testing it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, they workshopped the show in America and launched a national tour.
"You definitely have to be up on pop culture — the good, the bad, the tedious, the ridiculous," Samuels says of crafting the project. "I think this show jelled because we wanted to make sure we also had characters that you cared about. There's a story arc, there's real emotion and there's something human in it."
There are also broad strokes of humor.
The show opens with a ladies' book club delving into "Fifty Shades of Grey," and their interpretations of the steamy read spawns 11 original songs with such cheeky titles as "They Get Nasty," "I Don't Make Love" and "There's a Hole Inside of Me." A live band backs the performances.
Samuels, who also wrote the music and lyrics and serves as director, says he and Dorezas "wanted to make sure it was funny and that even our friends in comedy would like it."
No problem there. Since the show began touring nationally, it has garnered stellar reviews and is currently being licensed internationally with translations into French and German to begin early next year.
"In Germany, those guys go berzerk with the production budget," Samuels says with a laugh. "It's something like 1.2 million euros. That's a lot of money."
And expensive rope.
IF YOU GO50 Shades! The Musical!
Where: Marines' Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, 3, 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 and 6 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $30 to $65
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com