Review by Heather Metherell
THOSE who havent had the pleasure of watching The Jerry
Springer Show need only to hear past program titles to get
an idea of what it is like.
Gems include I married a horse and I refuse
to wear clothes; unashamedly gratuitous shows on which brazen
members of the American public tell secrets, fight and speak in
No such censoring exists in Richard Thomass Operatic version,
which contains enough obscenities to make Billy Connolly blush.
This is not the sort of Opera you would want to take your mother
to unless, of course, she is open minded about men who
find sexual satisfaction from defecating in their underwear.
There is nothing new about setting swearing to music (as anyone
who has seen South Park - the movie will know). There
is, however, a big difference between hearing Shut your
fucking face uncle fucker in the comfort or your own living
room, and sitting in the Cambridge Theatre while Chick
with a dick is being blasted out by a leaping leopard-skin
But this is beautiful, though eclectic, music, with influences
ranging from Mozart and Kurt Weill, to Rogers and Hammerstein.
The Opera begins with a wonderful chorus in which the word, Jerry,
is sung like a Kyrie Eleyson, while the chorus take their places
at either side of the stage to become the stereotypical Jerry
audience, complete with mullets, sagging cleavages and velour
What follows is basically a fictional episode of the TV show,
set to music. The acting is generally superb, with a great performance
from David Badella, as Jerrys desperate warm-up man, who
camped it up to the audience throughout.
Other highlights include Andrew Bevis energetic turn as
Tremont, the transvestite, which has a hint of The Darkness about
it (but that could just be the skin-tight cat suit hes wearing),
and the wonderful Wills Morgan, as nappy-wearing, Montel, while
Valda Aviks relishes her role as the frumpy crack addict, Zandra.
This is not your average Opera. In fact, chances are youll
never have seen anything like this before and it is this freshness
that makes it so fascinating, especially when treated to a high-kicking
Ku Klux Klan (that is reminiscent of the all singing all dancing
goose-stepping Nazis in The Prioducers) at the end
of the second half.
But it is a one trick pony, and while you may be belly laughing
all the way to the interval, the novelty soon wears off, and what
is left is a dissatisfactory second half.
The Opera loses its memento and is tied to a tired religious
theme that sees Jerry accidentally shot and taken to Hell to solve
the eternal argument between the Devil and God.
While in Hell we see Jesus reveal himself as gay, the virgin
Mary as a tired, bitter old woman, who disowned her son years
ago, and God descending from on high, dressed like Elvis on a
giant gold swing.
The second half tries too hard and says too much. The success
of Jerry Springers show is that we can laugh at those poor
individuals without any guilt, or remorse, and then leave them
behind when we change channels.
It was never supposed to be a programme of morals, that shows
the consequences of the man who married his horse, or what happened
to the child whos mother refuses to wear clothes.
But, as former guests troop sombrely down to Hell to tell Jerry
of how dreadful their lives have been since the show, it becomes
painfully apparent that Jerry Springer the Opera is doing
That said Jerry Springer The Opera is both interesting
and funny and, even though it does go walkabout in the second
half, we shouldnt worry too much as Richard Thomas and Stewart
Lee (director) are constantly rewriting it.
Plus, the cracking finale makes up for it, as the entire cast
don Jerry wigs and suits and dance in formation to This
is my Jerry Springer moment.
I dont think you will ever find a moment in an Opera quite
a surreal as that.