JERRY SPRINGER – THE OPERA: Theatre Review by Robin Gorman Newman

(Photo credit: Monique Carboni)

I’ve never been a fan of The Jerry Springer television show.

But, my curiosity was piqued when I learned of the new Off Broadway musical production from The New Group making it’s American premiere. The Brits clearly had a field day with this over the top trashy parody of the tv show, and the musical was a long-running hit in London and won many awards including the prestigious Olivier Award for Best Musical.

Now running through April 1 at The Pershing Square Signature Center in NY, It doesn’t hurt that two seasoned and appealing Broadway performers whose work I hugely admire headline the NY spectacle…..Terrence Mann and Will Swenson….and both are at the top of their game…and very “game.”

Act 1 is essentially a bawdy send up of The Jerry Springer television show.  Mann (who unfortunately barely sings here) not only looks the part of Springer, but he was an understated presence in this world of vulgarity and chaos as the guests on the show go at it and never cease to push the decadent envelope.

(Photo credit: Monique Carboni)

Act 2 takes a “hellish” turn, as Springer gets shot at the end of Act 1, and comes face to face with the devil himself, in the guise of a slinky Swenson, who is the warm-up tv show guy in Act 1 and is now a “hot” Satan.  Jesus, God and Adam and Eve also make appearances…..rounding out the motley and spiritual crew.

The high energy, camp fest, choreographed by Chris Bailey and directed by John Rando, runs a swift two hours, ten minutes, with an intermission, and the cast packs a punch….literally.  Playing a foul-mouthed parade of slimy and perverse characters including a pole dancer, diaper loving man, stripper,  transvestite, cheaters, etc., etc., the show features the versatile and powerhouse talents of Jennifer Allen, Florrie Bagel, Brandon Contreras, Sean Patrick Doyle, Brad Greer, Luke Grooms, Nathaniel Hackmann, Billy Hepfinger, Justin Keyes, Beth Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth Loyacano, Tiffany Marin, Jill Paice, Nichole Turner, Kim Steele.

Some standout numbers…..

Tiffany Mann as Shawntel belting out a fab I Just Wanna Dance.

A diaper-clad Justin Keyes singing Montel’s Momentous.  He deserves huge props for sporting the costume, alone!

And, Luke Grooms has a knockout solo as God singing It Ain’t Easy Being Me.

The”strong language” book, music and lyrics are by Richard Thomas, with additional book and lyrics by Stewart Lee.

The lighting and effects were striking and inventive, and Rando smartly makes full use of the theatre as actors emerge from the aisles and do some hand-slapping with audience members.  For better or worse, you feel like you are front ‘n center, bearing witness to the wild goings-on.

Kudoes to all for giving it their theatrical utmost…..Scenic Design Derek McLane, Costume Design Sarah Laux, Lighting Design Jeff Croiter, Sound Design Joshua D. Reid, Projection Design Olivia Sebesky, Orchestrations Greg Anthony Rassen, Music Direction Michael Brennan, Wig, Hair and Make-Up Design Dave Bova and J. Jared Janas, Fight Direction Jacob Girgolia-Rosenbaum.

Jerry Springer – The Opera is definitely not for the meek at heart or easily offended……and it was not my comedic cup of tea….but if you can look past the profanity and appreciate the richness of the music and the hard-working ensemble, you will walk (or run) away with a memorable experience.