JERRY SPRINGER – THE OPERA: This post is about an off-Broadway opera-theater-performance-art production of the very controversial JERRY SPRINGER – THE OPERA by the NEW GROUP on Wednesday, February 28th (the fourth Wednesday of the month for you daytime book groupers who will be meeting the week prior). Thanks to a helpful friend, we were able to reserve a limited number of tickets for $60. each However, this is a quick turn-around opportunity and the deadline is coming up fast – tickets need to be purchased in one week, by February 13th. This is an oddball, culturally relevant British (no kidding) work first produced by the National Theatre in the UK in 2003 (see a video clip of that production below). No surprise for a work based on the wacka-doodle television program, The Jerry Springer Show, it includes irreverent treatment of Christian themes, bucket loads of profanity and surreal imagery (uh, a chorus line of tap-dancing Klu Klux Klanners). The idea of relating the drama of opera to the drama of an over-the-top “reality” television talk show as commentary on American life, media and class (through British eyes, no less) makes for crazy compelling semi-underground theater. MWC’ers, if you want to give this a whirl, please go to the SIGN-UP! tab and secure your ticket. Since the minimum is 10, If fewer than that number want to go you will be given a refund. If we have more sign-ups than we’re able to cajole tickets for …. they will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.
SHOCK JOCK OPERA – WHO KNEW THAT WAS A THING? Let’s get this out of the way right now, JERRY SPRINGER- THE OPERA is not for the traditional theater goer. It’s for afficianados who like to see pretty much everything; who like to be challenged, who embrace the different story telling capacity of various art forms and understand that the shock of the new is sometimes … offensive. All of that applies to this strange work which has toured the world – sadly, as a window onto American life – but has been only rarely produced in the US. A 2004 Broadway production was planned after the work’s 2003 opening in the UK, but it foundered for lack of financing – and taste!
But, if you can put aside your distaste for The Jerry Springer Show, JERRY SPRINGER – THE OPERA becomes a meditation on the polarized and very angry interactions which now characterize our country’s politics, institutions and communications. Fanned by social media and our newly hatched personal, sound bite, selfie society, JERRY SPRINGER – THE OPERA reflects recast and sadly cynical notions of civility, integrity and entitlement. Tough, no?
THIS PRODUCTION IS SUPER-DUPER SPECIAL. The NEW GROUP specializes in limited runs of rarely seen works with top-notch performers. For instance, last Spring they did a small-scale and amazing production of SWEET CHARITY with Sutton Foster which made you realize that while production values are all well and good – it’s still the performers who make the show. In the case of JERRY SPRINGER – THE OPERA, this is an opportunity to see both Terrence Mann and Will Swenson – two powerhouse vocalists who can easily power-through any work. Terrence Mann (who originated the role of Inspector Javert in LES MIS, Rum Tum Tugger in CATS and the Beast in BEAUTY IN THE BEAST) has one of the best voices on Broadway – so it will be interesting to see if this role has any singing at all (it doesn’t usually) in an otherwise entirely sung-through production. Yes, just like opera! Will Swenson (originated Berger in the most recent Broadway production of HAIR) is Broadway’s favorite Mormon with an almost super-naturally supple but strong-as-steel voice.
OK, SO IT’S NOT EXACTLY YOUR RUN OF THE MILL OPERA OR MUSICAL – but that’s pretty much the point as it pushes the edge of those art forms in contemporary and startling ways which you’ll still be thinking about for a long time after you’ve left the theater.