Lawrence Redmond (Jerry Springer) in Jerry Springer: The Opera, Studio Theater, 2008 (photo by Scott Suchman)
Springer's second act, which casts God, Jesus, Mary, and Satan as guests on an infernal edition of The Jerry Springer Show, has drawn protests of outrage from conservative Christian groups, something that has dogged the show in all of its subsequent openings. No doubt about it, Jerry Springer is foul-mouthed, outrageous, and blasphemous. As satire of Christianity, Springer is ham-handed, a blunt hammer instead of a scalpel. If the best satire knows its target, Springer is wide of the mark. For example, Jesus says, "Talk to the stigmata" as he shows his hand, but the stigmata are mystical wounds that other people receive in imitation of Jesus' wounds -- Jesus did not receive the stigmata. For a show that exults in deflating piety, the pious ending reconciling God and Satan with the platitude "There are no absolutes of good and evil" rang hypocritical. Besides, after two hours of lines like "three-nipple cousin-fucker" and "barbed wire up the ass," could anyone be expected to take the moralizing seriously?
Bobby Smith (Jonathan/The Devil) in Jerry Springer: The Opera, Studio Theater, 2008 (photo by Scott Suchman)
The quality of the rest of the singing was appropriate to the absurdity of the show, which first sets to music a typical Jerry Springer Show. A series of guests make embarrassing, televised confessions to the people who love them. Dwight tells his fiancée, Peaches (Mary Gresock), that he has been screwing not only her best friend Zandra (Kristen Jepperson) but also a black transsexual named Tremont (the visually convincing and vocally high-flying Aaron Reeder). A fat Filipino named Montel (the sweet-voiced and guilelessly smiling Ron Curameng) tells his girlfriend Andrea (valiantly sung by Janine Gulisano-Sunday) that he is a diaper fetishist and has an infantalist friend, the pathetic Baby Jane (Florrie Bagel). Finally, a fed-up wife, Shawntell (a high soprano part sung by the light soubrette voice of Rachel Zampelli), tells her husband, Chucky (played by understudy Alan Hoffman on Saturday night), that she wants to be a stripper.
Peter Marks, Singing and Zinging (Washington Post, July 29)
Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, 'Jerry Springer' May Be Unholy, But Sales Are Divine (Washington Post, July 24)
Peter Marks, Actor Has Springer in His Step (Washington Post, July 20)
In the second act, the chorus and all the characters return to assist in the judgment of Jerry in hell. It would be too weighty a conclusion for such a grotesquely silly piece, except that, as noted above, it only becomes more irreverent and less actually about anything theological, philosophical, or serious. In that spirit, Jerry Springer: The Opera offers an evening of hilarity and groan-inducing one-liners ("I can't go to hell! I'm Jewish!"). It will also certainly exceed your expectations as to how much of the book could possibly be taken up with naughty words.
The run of Jerry Springer: The Opera has been extended at Studio Theater's Metheny Theater through