Today’s play describes itself as ‘a modern morality tale told as a comic musical of tragic proportions’ and ‘a coming-of-age story of an all-American small-town sweetheart’. It has been called ‘the most important theatrical event of the 21st century’. It is more often called Debbie Does Dallas.
And that’s an example of the sardonic sense of humor that runs through this musical by Erica Schmidt and Susan L. Schwartz, which premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2001 and then opened off-Broadway in 2002.
The original Debbie Does Dallas, made in 1978, was one of those witless Seventies porno films in which everything in the story is there solely to be a pretext for sex scenes of one sort or another. High-school cheerleader Debbie Benton has qualified to join the elite cheer squad known as the Dallas Cowgirls. Her only problem is raising the cash that will get her to Texas. So her cheerleading friends rally round to help her. They quickly realize that minimum wage jobs aren’t going to stack up the dollars – but there is another kind of service that nubile young girls can sell…
The 2001 Debbie Does Dallas is a witty spoof in which all the sex scenes are replaced by clever, innuendo-laden songs and the absurd plot is overlaid with a cynical sense of the triviality of the girls’ ambitions to wear fancy uniforms and be paid $15 a match. Oh, and one of the cheerleaders gets spanked on stage:
2011 production by Ghostlight Theater Company at Manchester, New Hampshire
Donna is the intellectual of the cheerleading peer-group, so it’s fitting that she has a job in the school library. In the musical’s first production, the role was originated by Tricia Paoluccio:
Her boss, the librarian Mr Biddle, comes from ‘a forgotten generation in his principles and etiquette’, and the script emphasizes that he is ‘repressed and reserved’ and, most importantly, does not want sex. So Donna should be poor but safe with him.
Donna, on the other hand, wants to experiment with sex. When she’s visited at work by her boyfriend… it’s the cue for a musical fantasy involving dancing girls and bananas. (Use your imagination.) But they are caught by the scandalized Mr Biddle, who sends the young man away and orders Donna into his office.
DONNA: Mr Biddle, don’t tell my parents, please don’t tell my parents. I beg you. They’ll kill me. Please don’t tell them.
BIDDLE: I am really surprised at you, Donna. You know the rules here. How could you so wantonly break them?
DONNA: I’m sorry, Mr Biddle. I didn’t mean to break the rules. I swear I’ll never do it again, just please don’t tell my parents.
BIDDLE: Your parents should know. They’re the ones that should deal with this. What you need, young lady, is a good spanking.
DONNA: OK, Mr Biddle.
(Donna leaps onto Mr Biddle’s lap and he gives her one good whack.)
Kelly Jo Blake is spanked by Cory Dowman in a 2005 production at Kansas City, Missouri
DONNA: Ow! Mr Biddle.
(Donna gets off Mr Biddle’s lap.)
BIDDLE: All right, stop crying. Stop crying. I won’t tell your parents.
So far this is based quite closely on an episode from the movie, with the signal difference that, in 1978, Biddle pulled down Donna’s panties and spanked her on the bare bottom, whereas in the musical the furthest it’s likely to get is…
2010 production at the Maverick Theater, Fullerton, California
But not every amendment of the source material is quite so welcome. No, I don’t mean the way spanking scenes are sometimes vulnerable to inept OTK positioning…
A spanking for Shauna Hagan in the 2008 production at the Carpenter Square Theatre, Oklahoma City
… or even to the common confusion between spanking and smacking…
Claire Hayner gets a smacked bottom in the 2013 production at Memphis, Tennessee
No, what you have to remember is that, to some modern sensibilities, F/M spanking is both funnier and more acceptable than M/F. In the movie it turns out that Mr Biddle has always secretly wanted to spank Donna, which is when the nudity kicks in: it’s the service she sells him for the noble cause of enabling Debbie to do Dallas. But in the musical, he has a slightly different repressed fantasy. And that’s why, when you watch this video of the scene, you might want to consider hitting the stop button after she gets up…
For more about Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical, go here.