Just like the TV talk show, JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA is not for the faint-hearted – or the easily offended – yet this controversial musical feels more relevant today than ever before
It’s fair to say that JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA caused a bit of a stir when it last came to the UK back in 2006. The controversial musical saw mass protests outside venues during its UK tour with nine theatres pulling after advocacy group Christian Voice threatened to picket them. Yet, while there was little drama outside of Hope Mill Theatre for the press night of the Northern Ricochet’s debut production, there was plenty of drama inside as this fresh and raucous production took to the stage.
Based on the infamous talk show THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW, JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA follows America’s favourite talk show host as he suffers the worst day in his career. From nappy wearing lovers to pregnant pole dancing strippers, every eccentric guest on Jerry’s show all want their 15 minutes of fame. But when the ultimate battle of good vs. evil turns into a battle between God and the devil, it soon becomes clear that nothing is off-limits in the world of Jerry Springer.
Just like the TV talk show itself, JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA is not for the faint-hearted – or easily offended. Writer Richard Thomas certainly hasn’t held back here, filling the stage with characters of increasingly intricate perversion as they square up to the audience shouting extreme profanities and beloved catchphrases like “Talk to the hand because the face ain’t listening”. Yet, just like THE BOOK OF MORMON, for all its blasphemy, profanity and downright bizarreness, JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA is also funny, clever and incredibly entertaining.
Much of the show’s success lies in the talented cast lead by Michael Howe as Jerry Springer, his calming presence expertly hiding Springer’s darker side as baits his guests on stage before quietly sitting back to watch the chaos ensue.
Elsewhere, Emily Chesterton as Peaches/Baby Jane and Cici Howells as pregnant stripper Shawntel stand out amongst the accomplished singers, while David Burilin as Montel/Jesus and Tom Lloyd as Jerry’s warm-up man and Satan, deliver some of the biggest laughs. In fact, all of the singers really sweat for their supper here, performing intricate musical numbers ranging from soaring arias to bouncy Broadway-style tunes, with impressive range and technique.
Of course, as expected from a show which has “had its day”, some of the show’s original content feels a little dated. A few lines, such as “chick with a dick”, haven’t aged well in an era of higher LGBTQ awareness and the section in which hooded Ku Klux Klan members run onto the stage to perform a Broadway-inspired song-and-dance takes on an eerie undertone at a time when white supremacists have so recently been marching on the streets.
That said, as we once again move into a period of political unrest, most of the satire feels breathtakingly prescient, the scene in which Jerry’s fictional warm-up man tells him, “You could run for Senate or even President” standing out as particularly glaring, as reality frighteningly catches up with satire.
With shows like Jeremy Kyle and Love Island also under scrutiny, JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA feels more relevant than ever before, reminding us that this behaviour, from whomever and however exhibited, has a price to pay.
JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA runs at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester until 31 August 2019
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.