At a recent performance of "SPANK! Harder" in Boston, Ben Palacios walked onstage bare-chested, wearing tight black pants and holding a riding crop.
"The audience just went nuts — they just roared," Palacio said. "We hadn’t had an audience that was that bawdy yet. They were just screaming."
Palacios, a well-built 24-year-old currently based out of Los Angeles, is part of the original cast of "SPANK! Harder," set to play Overture’s Capitol Theater Thursday and Friday.
The show, a musical pop culture parody piece and "ladies’ night out" adults-only event, is a sequel to "SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody" which played Capitol Theater last season to three nearly sold-out houses.
Both "SPANK!" shows were freely inspired by "50 Shades of Grey," the first book in a trilogy by E. L. James, soon to be a film set for release in 2015. Disparaged as "mommy porn" born of "Twilight" fan fiction, "50 Shades" burned up the bestseller lists in 2012.
Sensing a moment, that’s when the original "SPANK!" started its tour.
"People love escapism," Palacios said. "That’s why they get a thrill reading a book like ‘50 Shades of Grey.’ These darkly sexual shows and books that are coming out are really successful. There’s this seedy, illicit escapism people love … ‘SPANK! Harder’ and ‘SPANK!’ draw on that, parody it and make fun of it."
Palacios and his three castmates will have been on tour for six weeks when they arrive in Madison. In addition to the naïve young protagonist, Tasha (Shelley Ragner) and Palacios as Grey, there’s also a narrator/author — "E.B. Janet," played by Michelle Miracle — and a new milquetoast love interest, Carter Carnegie (Chris Gustin).
A review of a Feb. 23 tour stop in Buffalo described Carter as "a man so nice that he’s vomit-inducing." Materials for the show have described him as "sweet," "seductive" and, tellingly, "vanilla." He wears his sweater tied around his neck.
The whole cast sings, dances and gyrates their way through the two-hour performance.
"For this second one, they wanted to make it a little more of a musical," said Palacios. "It has seven, eight songs in it, parodies of pop songs like ‘Someone Like You’ by Adele and ‘Wrecking Ball.’"
There are also some "really fun dance numbers where me and the other guy in the show are ripping off our trenchcoats," Palacios said. "Our homework, during rehearsals, was to watch ‘Magic Mike’ and take notes."
"SPANK! Harder" is intended for audiences, primarily women, who are 18 and older. In the lobby, attendees can buy cocktails, chocolate penises and pink shirts that say "Keep calm and spank me."
"Most of the people who come see the show are people who are fans of the book," Palacios said. "It’s giving (both) fans of the book and people who haven’t read it something they’ll enjoy … it takes the fun and sexy and multiplies it by a million."