The Jerry Springer Opera: Living, Breathing, Singing Scandal
by Melissa Wimbish
Described as “utterly scandalous” the Jerry Springer opera didn’t really interest me all that much when it was making its debut back in 2008. However, with all this scandal education for the month of July at Operagasm and tracks like “Chick with a Dick”, “Poledancer” and “Montel Cums Dirty”, I have decided to give it a listen. This review of the live recording (written by “Musical Lover”) is a great sell. Definitely check out the short interview with the star of the original production at the end of this post:
“If you’re the type whose conscience bruises easily, click the back button on your browser immediately and don’t turn back, lest ye be turned into a pillar of salt.
Jerry Springer: the Opera is not for the faint of heart. The playful, un-PC cheekiness only hinted at in shows like Avenue Q and The Producers is on full, raunchy display here.
The first act plays like a musicalized and uncensored version of a typical episode of the television show, where adulterers and fetishists are given an international forum to come unhinged, while the guests with the least fault to bear are stripped of their humanity and mocked.
But it’s the second and third acts that are raising eyebrows the world over. In them, Jerry Springer goes to Hell after getting shot (in one of the most deliriously outrageous act one finales ever staged). There, he is forced to host a version of his show in the afterlife, featuring Satan, Adam, Eve, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and God Himself as his guests.
Anyone with half an imagination to devote to that scenario can only imagine that Biblical characters + Jerry Springer Show = a delicious recipe for controversy (or, as one church in England put it, “high blasphemy”).
It should be said that this show has also been condemned as anti-American. This is preposterous; with the exception of some brief but highly satirical “commercial breaks” (that poke fun at Americans’ love of Viagra, Jesus, guns and more), this musical is about as anti-American as the Jerry Springer show itself.
Musically, the score is incredibly rich. It is written in a traditionally presentational operatic style (the only character who doesn’t sing all of his dialogue throughout the show is our host, Jerry Springer), but is thoroughly infused with rock, jazz and theatrical tonalities. Indeed, some of the ballads here could, if stripped of their ridiculous contexts, easily be inserted into any serious book musical. The singers are all incredible. They range from classically trained voices, to musical theatre veterans, to rock/pop-type singers — a mixture as eclectic as the guest list of a typical Jerry Springer show.
But, above and beyond any hype, what is so incredibly groundbreaking about this opera is the way the music and especially the lyrics effortlessly transition from mildly offensive pastiche, into wildly offensive light opera, and then into incredibly moving high opera. The third act finale of this show packs a genuine emotional wallop the likes of which I haven’t experienced in a theatre since the first time I saw Les Miserables.
It feels weird to type that about something called “Jerry Springer: the Opera” — but there you have it.
It would be nice to see this opera get a highly polished studio recording someday, but in the meantime, you don’t need to feel as if you’re “settling” by purchasing this CD, because even though this recording is live, the quality is very high.”