The British musical that was a hit from 2003 and ran for 609 performances in London, before touring the UK, received many awards including four Olivier Awards, featuring musical stars from top West End shows. Its trashy, politically incorrect and full-on profane language and content are just as gritty as the TV show; it’s no surprise that it caused such a controversy during its run, as well as its broadcast on the BBC in 2005, which was taken to the Magistrates Court.
Stockwell’s Lost Theatre has produced an electrifying and highly entertaining production of Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee’s original work that has a range of young, skilled performers that will truly impress you and have you leaving the auditorium singing the rudest words to choral music on your way home. Showing for a very short run only (until Saturday March 19th), Alexander Parker’s production has strong opera voices that boast vocal bravado to provocative music, which deliberately echo the classical works of (perhaps) Bach and Handel’s requiem mass music – ‘Kyrie’ is replaced with an enchanting ‘Jerry!’
Jerry Springer: The Opera brings the so-called low life culture of those obsessed with the TV drama, fighting and absurd lover and family dilemmas – bisexual cheating husbands, wannabe pole dancers and diaper-clad coprophiles – to the next level of high art. It’s a clever piece of work. Just like Sweeney Todd, its composers consider the deeper links it has with opera and classical music – the pitying, the singing and sentimentality, including questions about what is socially acceptable, but that doesn’t come into full effect until the second half.
Here the laughs and cackling freeze as Jerry (Mark Carroll) indirectly gets the audience to re-think how they view these morally corrupt and complicated contestants, and make them wonder if TV should reflect the moral values of society, teach TV viewers what is right from wrong, or simply exploit social norms.
Speaking of the trashy comedy, which I might add can be pretty vulgar, audiences should be prepared to hear the best and the worst curse words in the English dictionary. Yet the humour is finely executed and that includes an odd, but comedy, moment where the Ku Klux Klan begin tap dancing away, out of the blue!
Carroll as Jerry Springer isn’t exactly Jerry’s doppelganger, however, you can sense the similar American mannerism, accent and movement, yet I doubt Thomas and Lee wanted the musical to present the cool-under-pressure Jerry we see on TV. During the first half, Carroll shows much more distance from the violent hair pulling combats taking place on stage, and ruthlessly fires obsessive fan and staff member Jonathan Wierus (Spencer James).
The second part is a different story though, and takes place in the depths of smokey, Goth-like hell, – here Jerry changes. We see Carroll in his element, giving a warmer performance as he faces Satan (James), Jesus (Kriss Webb), the Virgin Mary (Sarah Dacey) and God, aka Elvis Presley (Edward Baxter), in the weirdest scenario.
The great thing about Parker’s production is that there is so much enthusiasm and energy poured on to the stage from a strong ensemble of singers and performers. Although Spencer James had a shaky start on the singing, he turned out to be a shiny coin by the end of it in his devilish dapper red suit.
Rebecca Westberry, Nadia Eide and Sarah Dacey had gorgeous, soaring voices that seemed to have been plucked out of a Donizetti opera. Baxter has a superior tenor voice, Paul Bork as the ‘chick with a dick’ is vocally charming, and, not forgetting, Webb, who has a delightful and lyrical tone, even though he often uses it to describe his character’s desire to poop in his pants. This musical isn’t performed often enough, so if you love your musicals you’d better hurry up and see this show before the run ends!
Review by Mary Nguyen
Witness America’s favourite talk show host suffer the worst day of his career as high art meets low culture in the funniest, most groundbreaking and talked about musical EVER!
Jerry Springer The Opera
Booking to 19th March 2016