Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Fifty Shades of Grey
It was the book nearly every woman in the world wanted to read. Now the movie version of the scandalous “Fifty Shades of Grey” is about to make box office history with its release on Valentine’s Day.
However, we don’t have to wait another 11 days for the hot, steamy action of the world of BDSM, universal shorthand for bondage/domination, dominance/submissions and sadism/masochism.
The “filthy and funny” musical parody “50 Shades! The Parody” opens today at Bally’s Windows Theater. It will still be a mystery until curtain up as to the identity of the actor playing the role of billionaire businessman Christian Grey.
He will arrive via Papillon helicopter from Seattle this morning complete with luggage packed with sex toys that will fill his Red Room of Pain dungeon, which has been built at the theater. It will be filled with kinky instruments that Anastasia Steele, the innocent virgin, has never imagined existed.
Who better then than the woman who is catapulted into kink and submits to his darkest desires to provide us with a preview of the show? California theatrical actress Tatiana Mac plays Anastasia, joining a talent cast of other actors all from Las Vegas: Riley Altschul, William Credell, Matt Donnelly, Ryan Flanigan, Christian Hodgson, Greg Kata, Zipporah Peddle, Sabrina Plaisance Sia and Chelsea Phillips-Reid, who’s interview we posted here last Wednesday.
Riley is currently getting her bachelor’s degree in psychology at UNLV and performed in “Legends in Concert” as a singer and dancer. William was previously at Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” at New York-New York. Matt is co-host of Penn Jillette’s award-winning podcast “Sunday School.” Ryan was once a singing gondolier at the Venetian and performed in “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” at Planet Hollywood.
Christian, from England, was a lead singer at “Jubilee” in Bally’s. Greg was in “Mamma Mia.” Zipporah was for six years lead vocalist in Cirque’s “O” at Bellagio. Chelsea was the featured singer in “Vegas! The Show” at Planet Hollywood. Sabrina also was in “Tony & Tina’s Wedding.”
Las Vegas Sun photographer Steve Marcus joined me for our photo gallery when we sat in on first rehearsals. I talked with Tatiana and director Al Samuels; my Q+A with him was posted on Jan. 20.
Solely out of curiosity, Tatiana, why’d they take you from blonde to brunette?
In the book, it’s a plot point that she has dark brown hair, is very pale and has blue eyes that are too big for her face. I think that’s a paraphrased quote, but it’s really close to that.
You read the book, obviously?
I did, but I didn’t read it until I found out I was doing this. I had read these sort of comedic summaries of the books beforehand. My audition process for this was so quick, I didn’t have a chance to — so the second I found out, I was, like, “OK, get it on my iPad.”
In the parody that you’re doing, there is a red dungeon room. Presumably you have to act shocked and surprised in what you see. Had you ever seen anything like this in your real life before? Or only just heard about it?
Well it’s a totally different world when you’re immersed in it. I had seen some of these implements before, but when you’re surrounded by them and have a chorus of people parading them around you suggesting that they will be used upon you, it’s another world entirely.
It goes from being serious to comedy?
Absolutely. There’s something about it. As a human in a heightened state, they’re a little scary, but being scared and being excited and having a good time, they’re not so far apart as you might think.
Do guys understand that, or is that just a girl thing?
I think they can come to understand that.
In this book, it’s Christian Grey who is dishing out the sex requests. In the third book, I think it spins, and she’s the one who dishes it out. So the question is from the first book, from the parody, it’s the girl who’s on the receiving end of it, right?
Yes, I think, in all seriousness and paying all respect to the lifestyle, and it’s a very serious thing. I respect that. I have friends who take this culture seriously. From the outside, it looks very much like I am doing this to you and you are the victim; you’re getting nothing out of it. But, within the culture, it is much more reciprocal of a relationship.
So it’s really role-play. It’s like Comic-Con in San Diego. It’s costumes. Is that it?
It’s about the escapism of being in a costume. When you are in a costume or when you are assuming a role, there’s a certain freedom that comes with doing away with your day-to-day responsibilities. I think from the submissive point-of-view, there is something very freeing about not having to worry about yourself.
Trusting completely in another person. At least that’s the way I have to understand it to understand why Anastasia goes so far in that direction so quickly. I mean this is her first sexual experience, and that takes it from zero to 100. It’s just an extreme.
50 Shades! The Parody
What has doing the show taught you, or what have you gotten out of it, or what is the audience going to get out of it?
A lot of fun. The audiences will really enjoy the fun of this.
Are they going to get sex shocked, as well? Seeing the unusual, enjoying the unusual, or perhaps wanting to do the unusual after the show?
I think so because I think we take the scary out of it a little bit and make it accessible. The character I play doesn’t have it together; she’s not a beautiful Las Vegas showgirl. She’s clumsy; she trips over things. I think to watch someone like Anastasia go through and experience these things and fumble with them, I think that gives the audience the opportunity to say, “Hey, maybe I’ll try it, too.”
I tried to read the book, but … I haven’t seen the show, and I’ve certainly not seen the movie, but do you start out as a mouse and then you become …
A stronger mouse. An empowered mouse.
I was going to say do you become a firebomb by the end of the parody? Just being a stronger mouse doesn’t really put you in charge.
But I’m in charge of … I think the mouse takes control of herself. It’s about being in charge of herself. She doesn’t take charge of him, but in some ways he doesn’t intellectually, psychologically take charge of her. He does things to her physically. He puts her in situations physically, but I think her journey is more from not owning her own being to actually being self-realized.
So explain to me as an actress in this show, I know what a parody means, you know what a parody means, you’re poking fun at something that’s serious. How do you remain faithful to the message of the book while poking fun at it?
As an actress, the word parody is something that I’ve only used in this situation; when it’s explaining the show to the public. In the rehearsal room, I treat every scene as if it were a straight play. As if I were doing Chekhov; I mean as serious as that sounds.
Have you ever done Chekhov?
Only in college. So I treat this as honestly and truthfully as I can, and then once I know what the heart of the scene is, that’s when … there are moments in life that are funny. We can be having a serious conversation, and funny things will arise. It’s finding those funny things and blowing them up; enlarging them. It’s a two-week rehearsal process, but we’ve been there hours every day finding what those moments are and highlighting those moments. At the end of the day, it’s still a love story between Anastasia and Christian, and that’s the story that I’m playing.
And the love story comes through with or without the sexual ruthlessness of the book?
It does, and I think that comes from — not every scene is perverted, if you will. Within every perverted scene, there are moments of humanity. It’s a lifestyle choice, right? I’m saying from an audience point-of-view, if you look at someone onstage holding a double-headed dildo, somebody is going to say, “Oh, that’s a little perverted,” but it’s a giggle. You know what? If it’s purple, you know somebody who’s using it. It’s still funny that it’s purple.
Are you having fun? Are you enjoying this? This is your first Las Vegas experience, right?
I’m having so much fun. I moved from San Diego for this. I was in L.A. for seven years, including college. No television or movies yet, just all live theater. I really love live theater. Something about it is just different. This was all new to me when I read the script.
(Al joined our conversation.)
So you’ve gone from read-through to run-through, and you’re now really close to opening night?
It’s going great. I did not think that we would be this far. I thought that we would be ready for the press preview, knock on wood, but I think we’re in great shape. We’re actually able to even put in some of the understudies during the rehearsal process, which being a week and a couple of days in is pretty great.
The cast is funny?
Yes, they really are. There are funny moments; I’ve been with the show for a couple of years. There are funny moments in the show I’d never seen before.
Do you still stand by your claim that you’re going to shock and surprise the sensitivities of Las Vegas?
I would say yes. There is a scene, which the shorthand name of the scene is “The Muff Dive Ballet.” In the book, a big seminal moment is when Christian takes Anastasia’s flower, basically, and we represent that in this moment titled “Muff Dive Ballet.” What’s happening on one side of the stage is this glorious, beautiful dance with two gorgeous people — one of our male dancers and female dancers.
At the same time, what’s going on in the bed is this just clumsy movement — the eventual moment of just wonderful and horrible but hilarious, hopefully hookup accompanied by the beautiful “Muff Dive Ballet.”
We do see that onstage as the loss of her virginity?
Yes, we see her deflowered. It’s a nod to “Oklahoma!” In the stage version of “Oklahoma!” years ago, there was the love ballet in which two of the characters, basically their dream versions of themselves, came out and danced this gorgeous dance while the two of them are connecting. We were like, “Let’s do our version of that.”
You directed the Off-Broadway show, and you directed the show that went out on the road. So is it going to be different in a way for Las Vegas audiences?
It is. There are some parts that are kind of sexier even for Las Vegas. We’re going to do a little bit of a different teeny opening moment that will be different for Las Vegas. Luckily the show already, if you can tell with the boys coming out, it already has those elements to it. We’re just kind of wrapping those up for Las Vegas.
Anastasia, whoops, Tatiana, I need to ask you one question from what Al just told me. There’s this scene where you lose your virginity and you’re in the bed being clumsy when there’s a beautiful ballet going on at the other side of the stage. This has to be the first show that you’ve ever done, it’s the first show that I’ve heard of, where somebody actually loses their virginity on a bed on a stage live for an audience. Think of some words that describe that. I mean it’s clumsy on your part because of the show itself, but words like “embarrassing” or “uptight,” what words come to mind as you have to lose your virginity every night?
It’s a little unnerving, I’m going to be honest. I’m a little nervous because in rehearsal, I have not been able to get through it once without this little pit of giggles in my stomach. Which I can cover up. It can be joy, but … it’s a little absurd. It’s one of those surreal situations that I’ll be laying there, and the fact that there will that many people night after night watching that scene, it’s just a little surreal.
Do you get undressed for this scene? Does he undress you for this scene?
There’s no undressing that occurs on his part to me. I open the scene in a state of undress, and one thing leads to another.
So you’re a little bit nervous about it?
To be really honest, yeah, a little bit. I mean I have no doubt in my mind that it will all go swimmingly as one’s first time can.
Is that the toughest part for you? The bedroom deflowering?
As of right now, yes. Also, because I haven’t worked out yet her point-of-view at that point of the show because it is a big change. You can mark moments in a script when a character changes, and that is a big change. Also from a woman’s perspective, from a woman who is essentially my age and still has never experienced this, yes, that is one of the harder parts.
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Performances of “50 Shades! The Parody” begin today at Windows Theater in Bally’s. Tuesday performances are at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. and Wednesdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. There is no show on Mondays.
The movie version of the 2011 erotic romance novel and bestseller by British author E.L. James is being released on Valentine’s Day. It stars Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey, the fan of S&M, bondage and punishment, and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, his unlikely victim who finds love.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.