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Entertainment Highlights: Spank! 50 Shades of Funny

  • Drew Moerlein and Michelle Vezilj star in Spank! (Courtesy photograph)

    Drew Moerlein and Michelle Vezilj star in Spank! (Courtesy photograph)

  • Drew Moerlein and Michelle Vezilj star in Spank! (Courtesy photograph)

As Hollywood speculates over which pretty boy actor will assume the role of Christian Grey, the suave, kinky one-percenter in the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, the sauciest bits of E.L. James’ “erotic thriller” are being lampooned in an unauthorized but wildly popular stage parody.

Spank!, the touring parody of Fifty Shades that comes to the Lebanon Opera House Monday night, fondly mocks not only its source material, but the cultural impact the novel has had since its release two years ago, said Drew Moerlein, the Bow, N.H., native who plays Hugh Hanson, a Grey-esque character, in Spank!

“We’re not bashing the book by any means. We’re more celebrating the hype and the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey,” Moerlein said in a phone interview this week from Buffalo, N.Y., where he was performing.

“I think most people who read it, even people who love it and adore the characters, they see that there are parts of the book that are ripe for parody,” he added. “You know, the writing, the grammar, the vocabulary, the story itself. It’s very fantastical and out of the realm of most people’s reality, or even their wildest imagination of what could be their reality.”

Spank! is touring the country at a feverish pace, with three different casts filling the roles of Hugh Hanson and Tasha, the female lead who’s loosely based on the character of Ana, a naive college student in the book who falls under Grey’s dominant charm. Because it’s not an official stage adaptation, the novel’s titillating scenes are not reenacted word for word. Devotees of Fifty Shades, however, will recognize themes and scenarios that made the book a runaway success.

“We pull the most ridiculous parts of the book and the odd habits of this billionaire or the weird quirks of this naive virginal princess and we elaborate on them and expand on them, and heighten them even further to a realm of ridiculousness,” Moerlein said.

Stepping into Hugh Hanson’s shoes represented an exciting challenge for Moerlein, who wasn’t intimidated by the lack of an official film or theater adaptation of the Grey character.

“I have to tell you, that was probably one of the most thrilling parts of this project when I was offered the role, was the fact that no one had ever done this before. no one has ever been Christian Grey before,” he said. “This was an experience for me to show the world what my take and our director’s take and my fellow actors who obviously help shape my character … It was an experience and a wonderful opportunity for me.”

Much like the book, Spank! has won over audiences that consist mostly of women, and the show relies heavily on the male lead’s sexuality (Moerlein will pose for photos with audience members after the show Monday). That’s not to say, Moerlein said, that Spank! has nothing to offer the men in the house.

“Men are undoubtedly going to be dragged by their wives to the show, but we like to not think about it as dragging. We like to think about it (as) these men are going to get just what the women are getting. There’s eye candy for both men and women,” he said. “The hilarity and the openness with which we tackle sexuality will definitely make men laugh.”

“Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Lebanon Opera House ($25-$45).

Best Bets

Bluesman Guy Davis was raised in suburban New York City, far from the Mississippi Delta, but with one foot rooted in the blues traditions of the last century. The latest iteration of Davis’ live show, which he’ll bring to Plainfield Town Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday, finds the so-called “Ambassador of the Blues” playing songs from his latest European release, Juba Dance, amid stories of his many years performing (reserve tickets by calling 603-675-5454 or emailing

∎ ∎This weekend, Lebanon City Center Ballet brings to life the story of Giselle, a frail young girl whose brief romance with a duke ends in tragedy. Written by the French poet Theophile Gautier with music from Adolphe Adam, and first performed in 1841, Giselle gets a new treatment with choreography from Jennifer Henderson, City Center Ballet’s resident choreographer. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lebanon Opera House ($12-$25, advance; $17-$30, day of show).

∎ The February nor’easter that dumped a foot of snow on the Upper Valley precluded singer-songwriter Seth Glier’s scheduled concert at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph. With the winter weather finally (hopefully) behind us, the Grammy-nominated Glier will make his long-awaited appearance in the Upper Valley, not long after the release of his latest CD, Things I Should Let You Know, at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Chandler ($16, advance; $19, day of show).

∎ The Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble’s spring concert, “Rock ’n Winds,” at 8 p.m. Saturday could be described as “experimental.” The multimedia concert will see the ensemble, led by conductor Matthew Marsit, take on rock-influenced works from modern composers such as Eric Nathan, John Mackey and Eric Whitacre, as mood-appropriate digital images appear on the Spaulding Auditorium stage. Student conductor Paul Finkelstein will take over for Marsit as the conductor plays clarinet on the Scott McAllister number Blackdog ($10-$20).

∎ Be prepared to get out on the dance floor when the longtime Upper Valley dance band Sol Food performs at Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction at 8 p.m. tomorrow with Green Room, a Hanover-based funk band that is becoming a favorite on both sides of the Connecticut River ($15).

On Stage

In Nunsense, the musical comedy that is the final show in the Northern Stage season, the five surviving Little Sisters of Hoboken have their work cut out for them when the rest of their order die of botulism after consuming bad vichysoisse. To pay for the burials, the sisters pool their circus, ballet and comedic talents to put on a variety show in the Mount Saint Helen’s School auditorium. Expect an evening of sisterly shenanigans when Nunsense, directed by Catherine Doherty, opens tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. Visit for performance times and to purchase tickets.

∎ The Old Church Theater’s 2013 season kicks off with a production of Catch Me If You Can, a comedy-mystery about the antics that ensue when a honeymooning ad man’s new wife goes missing. Directed by Diane Chamberlain and starring Anne Foldeak and Anthony Helm, Catch Me If You Can will be performed at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at the theater, located behind the Bradford Congregational Church in Bradford, Vt.

∎ Shaker Bridge Theatre in Enfield closes out its sixth season this weekend with three final performances of North Shore Fish, Israel Horovitz’s play about the lives of the workers in a struggling Gloucester, Mass., fish processing facility. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Whitney Hall Auditorium in Enfield ($25, adults; $20, students).

First Friday

There’s music to be heard in every corner of White River Junction during First Friday festivities tomorrow. Starting late tomorrow afternoon, you can catch Brian Cook, Jennifer Ulz and Jonee Earthquake playing in the Tip Top Building; Spencer Lewis and Juliana Nicole at the Tuckerbox Cafe; Doug Phelps and Doc Rogers at the Boho Cafe; and many more.

∎ The Pilgrims, Thompson Gunner, Death Pesos and Lake Superior, four of the What Doth Life collective of Windsor-area rock bands, will play a show at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction.


The Peter Concilio Jazz Trio plays Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland at 9 p.m. tomorrow.

∎ The Chamberworks series of free concerts in Dartmouth’s Rollins Chapel takes a jazzy turn on Sunday at 1 p.m., when saxophonist Fred Haas takes the stage with guitarist David Newsam, bassist Marty Ballou and drummer Tim Gilmore.


The Central Vermont band Second Wind will celebrate a quarter-century of performing in a show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Upper Gallery at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph. See founding members Jim Sardonis, Jim Green and Eric Sakai perform with drummer George Rich, Ed Burgess on guitar and percussionist Ralph Molinario, singing a blend of originals and familiar covers ($13, advance; $16, day of show).

Choral Music

The Freelance Family Singers of Woodstock are celebrating their 35th anniversary with a pair of spring concerts this weekend, at 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the First Congregational Church of Woodstock. Under the direction of Ellen Satterthwaite, the singers will perform the piece Rhythm of Life , which the first group of Freelance Family Singers sang. The concerts are free, though donations of non-perishable food items for the Woodstock Community Food Shelf are welcome.


Pianists Philip Liston-Kraft and Daniel Weiser present “Fabulous Four Hands,” a Classicopia concert of piano pieces from Mendelssohn, Gershwin and others. Shows take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Norwich Congregational Church and 1 p.m. Sunday at the First Congregational Church of Lebanon ($20; free for children 18 and younger).

Family Performances

Get in the Cinco de Mayo spirit by attending Ballet Folklorio de Dartmouth’s free show at 11 a.m. Saturday at Dartmouth’s Alumni Hall. The Mexican dance troupe’s performance is part of Hopkins Center for the Arts’ HopStop series of free family shows.

∎ The educational theater company TheatreWorks USA will perform a stage adaptation of Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White’s beloved tale of the bonds between a pig and spider, at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Claremont Opera House ($12, adults; $7, children).


Dulcimer player and vocalist Gail Finnie comes to the Sunapee Community Coffeehouse, at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the basement of the Sunapee Methodist Church. There’s no admission fee, but a hat for donations will be passed.

Bars and Clubs

Jason Cann performs a set at Harpoon Brewery in Windsor at 6 tonight, then heads to Bistro Nouveau in Grantham tomorrow for a 6 p.m. show. At 6 p.m. Saturday, Cann returns to Harpoon to perform with his band Wherehouse.

∎ Canoe Club in Hanover has music this week from Lydia Gray and Ed Eastridge (tonight), pianist Gillian Joy (tomorrow), pianist Bob Lucier (Saturday), guitarist Phil Singer (Tuesday) and Asheville, N.C., singer-songwriters Dana and Susa Robinson (Wednesday).

Open Mics, Jams

The Santa Croce Singers, a group of six singing siblings, will be the featured artist at tonight’s open mic at Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction. The open mic, hosted by Dave Clark, starts at 7, and the singers start performing at 8:30.

∎ Clark also leads an acoustic showcase every Sunday at 8 p.m. at Canoe Club in Hanover.

∎ Seth Barbiero and Brian Warren host tonight’s open mic at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon, starting at 8.

∎ Chad Gibbs hosts Salt hill Pub in Hanover’s open mic at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

∎ Shepard’s Pie Restaurant on Route 4 in Quechee holds a Tuesday night open mic, starting at 6.

∎ The Colatina Exit in Bradford has an open mic on Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

∎ There’s an open jam every Tuesday night from 7 to 9 at Tuck’s Rock Dojo in Etna.

∎ Wednesday night is open mic night at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland. It’s led by Gregory Brown and starts at 8:30.

∎ Anthony Furnari hosts an open mic at Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Entertainment Highlights appears each Thursday. Email news of upcoming events to