Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

50 Shades Takes the Stage

“This is real life; this isn’t a book,” Ana says. “If it was, it would be terrible.” Can’t argue with that. Fortunately, “50 Shades!” is a musical parody, and a very entertaining one.

 

I stumbled upon this review by The New York Times which references a new production happening off-Broadway at the Elektra Theatre. This production is entitled 50 Shades! the Musical and, according to The New York Times, is quite the show as it frames the original plot of the novel with a secondary plot involving an all-female book club. While I read this review, I couldn’t help but wonder what the conversations were like around the table when this was pitched for the season. Although the musical is a parody, the association to the book is obvious. Characters, plot points, and the title would be recognizable to those familiar with the source, and although the show does not contain all of the extreme sexual acts from the original text, the theatre does only allow audience members who are above the age of 18. The original text, a book by E.L. James, is a best seller, but so many of the readers tended to read it privately and shy away from discussing it with friends or significant others. It seems like quite a risk to put it on the season not knowing if your audience will show up. You know the majority of your audience has read (or is at least familiar) with the base text, but are they willing to admit it? A giant, potential consumer base would be available, but if that consumer base elected to not indulge, it could be a huge financial loss. I couldn’t help but compare it to some of our questions we received in class, specifically questions 11, 12, and 13, which all related to value.

As future arts managers, I think it’s important to look at productions like 50 Shades! It asks us to look at risk in a different way… Can we cater to an audience/viewer/consumer that indulges (sometimes discreetly) in an art that society labels as taboo? What happens if we do? Is the value of the art worth an empty seat?

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6 comments on “50 Shades Takes the Stage

  1. trishayoung
    August 27, 2014

    Closet fans can sometimes be the most lucrative kind of fans; they’re the ones that might come alone to the show but are more likely to return multiple times. I can’t help but wonder though if producing 50 Shades as a musical is a “taboo” move or a great marketing ploy. It certainly can’t hurt to begin with an existing fan base.

  2. jaredchamoff
    August 28, 2014

    I agree with Trisha. I think that the idea of musicalizing “50 Shades” is a great marketing ploy! I imagine that the musical has potential to gain a similar buzz to what the book (and now the movie) have. The subject matter makes people talk. The musical would certainly a point of conversation, not only in the typical theater crowd, but also those who don’t attend the theater very often. I imagine that all this buzz, if channeled correctly, could result in ticket sales. Maybe if the closet fans you mention are afraid to be seen going to the show, they just wear hoodies and sunglasses to the theater?

  3. jaredchamoff
    August 28, 2014

    I agree with Trisha. I think that the idea of musicalizing “50 Shades” is a great marketing ploy! I imagine that the musical has potential to gain a similar buzz to what the book (and now the movie) have. The subject matter makes people talk. The musical would certainly a point of conversation, not only in the typical theater crowd, but also those who don’t attend the theater very often. I imagine that all this buzz, if channeled correctly, could result in ticket sales. Maybe if the closet fans you mention are afraid to be seen going to the show, they could just wear hoodies and sunglasses to the theater?

  4. benjamendouglas
    August 28, 2014

    Very interesting. I think that people are looking for an edgy outlet. (I have a whole theory about the pendulum-ness of conservatism vs. liberalism.) We’re seeing lots of this going on right now in all sorts of disciplines. A friend of mine recently sent me an article about a BDSM produced by James Franco. There’s clearly a market for this subject matter.

  5. lcrowley2014
    August 28, 2014

    Hah – I am very entertained by picturing a sea of anonymous audience members in sunglasses and hoodies 🙂

  6. hgenetos
    August 29, 2014

    I agree with Trisha and Jared. Cult followings are very lucrative. Think about how many cult movies we are all secretly obsessed with these days. There are now public viewings of all those films where we can all gather together to obsess over them. This is doing just that with 50 Shades of Gray. Plus the kind of women I see doing this are also on the Sex and the City bus tour so perhaps they should partner?

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