JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA

Posted: January 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA

So, I had waited nearly 12 years to see a production of “Jerry Springer: The Opera” now playing at the Moore Theatre.

I first heard about the show when it made its début at the Scottish Fringe Festival in Edinburgh back in 2002, and I immediately fell in love with its creative concept of marrying high art to the lowest of low brow television.

Of course, the show’s “irreverence” meant that most theater companies in good old puritanical USA wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole, or in this case with a ten foot pole that has a barbed-wire covered dildo attached to the end of it! And so that meant waiting a l-o-o-o-o-n-g time to get my chance finally to see what, conceptually at least, sounded like a raucous good time.

But thanks to the ballsy Balagan Theatre Company & STG, I got my opportunity to have my “Jerry Springer moment,” and all I can say is that it lived up to, and even exceeded, my expectations!

You see, after 12 years, I had become a bit wary of the show’s staying power. The world has changed a lot in the last decade, and with the explosion of digital media and technology making every thing under the sun visible and accessible to us via computer, phone, or iPad, I had my doubts as to the show’s ability to pack the irreverent punch it once had.

In other words, would today’s 24 hour access to porn, sleaze, and generally debauchery in a variety of digital modalities render the shock value of this lowbrow opera less shocking 12 years later? Would the hipster-created, irony-loving, Honey-boo-boo pop culture world in which we now live make this show seem boring and old-fashioned by today’s standards?

The answer would be a resounding “NO!”  The show is still every bit as racy, smart-in-a-dumb-way, and wildly entertaining as it was when it was first conceived!
(Insert video of me with my arm circling in the the air screaming “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!” here __________.)

With songs like “I’ve Been Seeing Someone Else,” “Chick With a Dick”, “Talk to the Hand,” “Mama Gimme Smack on the Asshole,” and “Every Last Mother Fucker Should Go Down,” what’s NOT to love?! This is EXACTLY what modern theatre and opera should be! — not taking itself so seriously as it seriously explores the depravity of modern American society.

And even more beautifully, it doesn’t necessarily condemn this society or shows like that of Jerry Springer to which society has given birth. If anything, it offers an exaltation of the beauty of humanity, in all of it glory and misery, much like Baudelaire tried to do in the 19th century when he wrote his famous book of poetry, “Les Fleurs du Mal” (Translation: “The Flowers of Evil.”).

By and large, director, Shawn Belyea, did a great job handling this large cast. Granted, the Moore theatre is not the best venue for such a production, as its proscenium stage seems to suck the action up into a vacuum, thus impeding what could have been, and should have been, a much more ‘audience interactive’ show. But Belyea’s blocking and choreography, especially with the Jerry-Springer-audience-chorus, was well done.

As for the performers, admittedly, there was some unevenness. As others have mentioned, the women had far superior voices to the men over all, and Megan Chenovick as “Peaches/Baby Jane” was absolutely brilliant! Her voice was angelic and totally stood out from most of the rest of the cast. Jennifer Bromagen as “Zanda/Irene/Mary” also had a very powerful voice.

Brandon Felker did an OK job as the title character, “Jerry,” but I think many other actors could have done a better imitation of the talk show host. And Sean Nelson was a bit lack luster in his role as “Satan.” Also, Kevin Douglass as “Montel/Jesus” did a fine job, but his voice was no match to the ladies.

As I said, however, I loved the show primarily because of its concept. Granted, the first act, which is basically an episode of “The Jerry Springer Show,” is much more interesting and entertaining than the second act where Jerry is sent to hell after having been shot in the chest by one of his audience members. But all in all, the laughs keep coming all the way through.

I do wish, however, that lighting designer, Ahren Buhmann, had been a bit more creative  with the scenes that took place in hell, and especially during the video game war between Satan & God. That was a missed opportunity to do some really fun special effects.

In short, I suggest that everyone stop taking themselves so seriously and go have their “Jerry Springer Moment!”

“Jerry Springer: The Opera” plays through January 26 at the Moore Theatre, 1932 2nd Ave. For tickets and info, visit STGpresents.org or call 877-784-4849.

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