50 Shades of play.

Is it just me, or does every woman you see have a copy of 50 Shades of Grey in her hands everywhere you go?

According to wikipedia, the book has sold 40 million copies worldwide and has “set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time” beating the previous teenage record holder, Mr. Harry “I’m cool because I’ve got a magic owl” Potter.

And get this, critical reception has been “mixed”  . . . (are you surprised?  It seems to me that the more popular and entertaining a show, film, book, etc. is the more mixed a response it gets).  Surprisingly though, reader response is also mixed.  The whopping 12,561 aggregated reviews on Amazon result in only a three star rating.  Some of the reviews are so bad, it sounds like they want to give the author a spanking.  Cuz she was just a naughty, naughty, bad girl.

So what is it about this book that has girls going wild, and what can we learn from it?

1.  50 Shades is about sex.  

The oldest cliche in the book is the oldest cliche in the book for a hot and sweaty reason.  Sex sells.  Like it or not, or whether it’s good or not, like a new frozen yogurt in Manhattan or the latest exercise fad, sex just sells.  I saw this first hand with my production of My First Time, that has been done all over the world, and now is being licensed all over the country.  There wasn’t much advertising required for a title and a subject like that.  Makes you a little hot for this season’s The Performers, doesn’t it?

2.  50 Shades is not just about sex.

It’s about a kind of sex that we don’t hear about every day – BDSM.  And like I wrote about in this blog four years ago, the most exciting drama opens the door to a world that the audience isn’t all that familiar with but is super curious about (the mob, the super wealthy, The West Wing, etc.).  The doors to the BDSM world are literally locked to protect privacy . . . and this book gives you a voyeuristic key . . . with no safe word required.
I’m certainly not advocating that every one out there put some kind of erotica on the stage of their local community theater, but it’s always important for Producers of all types of products to analyze what’s popular in the mass market, and use it as a research guide for what could be popular in your market.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll be so successful you won’t need a spanking.

Unless you want one . . .


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.