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Jerry Springer—The Opera Planning Broadway Run Despite Protests

By Ernio Hernandez and James Inverne
01 Mar 2005

The controversial London hit Jerry Springer—The Opera will come to the Broadway stage despite recent protests in the U.K., according to production spokespersons.

"While the widely covered but small scale religious protests in the U.K. surrounding Jerry Springer—The Opera have not been helpful in the completion of raising the capital for the Broadway production, they have by no means brought an end to our New York plans," said a spokesman for the New York production in a released statement. "We are looking to complete the finance process over the next six months and are planning a Broadway opening in the first half of 2006."

The statement was issed after U.K. producer Jon Thoday reported to U.K. news outlets that recent uproar from Christian groups was a growing factor in the trepidation of potential investors planning the cross-Atlantic move for the work. The production is still planning to tour the U.K.

Production spokespersons previously told Playbill.com (November 2004) that the show's Broadway plans were bumped from its originally announced Oct. 20, 2005 start date, though producers were still looking to open the musical on Broadway in the spring of 2006. This came just days after the announcement of its pre-Broadway run being postponed in San Francisco from the 2004-2005 season.

Proceeds from a special charity performance of the show in aid of a cancer charity were recently turned down, after protests from religious activists. The Maggie's Centre stood to gain £3,000 from a performance on Feb. 18. However, the activist group Christian Voice—an outfit purportedly run by a single man&mdashwarned the cancer charity not to take the money. According to the Scotsman newspaper, they told the charity that it would amount to profiting from “filth and blasphemy.”

David Soul, who played the title role in the show, hit out at the pressure group’s “strong-arm tactics” and pointed out that cancer doesn’t only affect Christians. Meanwhile, Christian Voice’s leader Stephen Green said that his group are preparing to put pressure on the show’s planned U.K. tour. He told the Times newspaper, “The producers think there will be a U.K. tour, but we will see how it pans out. We will be picketing theaters.”

Opponents of the show object to the depiction of Jesus, God and other biblical characters. Although there were very few protests about the show for most of its run, a BBC television broadcast sparked a record numbers of complaints (many before the broadcast had been shown) and threats of “bloodshed” against some BBC executives.

Jerry Springer—The Opera began as a "scratch night" event in 2001 with creator-composer Richard Thomas, then underwent a number of workshops before making a splash— in concert version—at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2002. New National Theatre Artistic Director Nicholas Hytner, who had followed the show's evolution, decided to present it as his first production and the National's first new opera.

The opera extended its debut twice at the National's Lyttleton Theatre, where it was recorded live for the currently-released double CD. The work then transferred to the West End's Cambridge Theatre where it still currently runs.

The new show based on the world (and netherworld) of the American talk show host features music by Richard Thomas and book and lyrics by Thomas and Stewart Lee—who also directed the London run.

The stage work centers on its title character, talk show host Jerry Springer, and his widely followed television program. Known for its volatile and outrageous guests —who at times assault each other—the show's topics have ranged from "Hillbilly Love Triangles!" and "A Transsexual Turned Me On!" to "Surprise! I Have a Bisexual Lover" and "I Refuse to Wear Clothes." After the traditional "Jerry! Jerry!" chant, the show concludes with Springer's Final Thoughts — in which the host comments on the proceedings in an attempt to make sense of it all.

Characters featured in the production include Jerry, the TV show's head of security Steve Wilcos, a slew of trailer trash and omnisexual characters, some KKK members and Satan.

For more theater news, visit Playbill.com.




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