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Jerry Springer, the Opera
A Jaw-Dropping Production
When the pre-show announcer states, “Please silence your cell phones now — if you don’t, it will annoy the sh*t out of us. .. so sit back, relax and enjoy the f***ing show,” you know you’re in for one heck of a musical ride. But nothing can prepare you for what follows next.
Conceived by a British writing team (with one crazy imagination) and originally produced in London, Jerry Springer, the Opera, is a jaw-to-the-floor shocking, raunchy, and at times hilarious operatic-style farce. That’s right — it’s Opera meets the trashiest of television shows, the Jerry Springer Show, and the combination of the two could not be more outlandish.
If you’re not familiar with The Jerry Springer Show it was once voted by TV Guide magazine as the "Worst TV Show Ever." The show itself bragged that it was, "an hour of your life you'll never get back.” With crazy, dysfunctional guests revealing vulgar secrets in front of an equally trashy studio audience, the show represents the lowest of the low in American culture.
Poking fun at this ridiculous behavior, Ray of Light Theatre’s West Coast Premiere of Jerry Springer, the Opera at the Victoria Theatre uproariously spoofs the low-brow talk show. If you get a kick out of SNL or Onion parodies, Act 1 of the show, in particular, will have you laughing your arse off.
Aside from Jerry Springer himself (Patrick Michael Dukeman), whose performance is a little lackluster, the rest of the cast is pretty fantastic. For starters, you simply can’t have the Jerry Springer Show without the loud, obnoxious studio audience. Dressed as disturbingly tacky as possible (teased-hair, blue eye shadow, and more!) and singing crude profanities Operatic-style to the talk show guests (and each other), the actors whole-heartedly embrace their roles. In fact, the outrageous behavior and physical comedy of the slutty, trash-talking lesbian, and weirdo studio audience is one of the major highlights of the musical.
Speaking of outrageous, each talk show guest is more nutty than the next. You’ve got the slimy, beer-bellied Dwight (Steve Hess) who reveals he’s cheating on his wife, Peaches (Tracy Camp) with her coke-snorting best friend Zandra (Jordan Best). But that’s not all! Dwight’s also having an affair with crossing-dressing, almost transsexual Tremont (Timitio Artusio). And in typical Jerry Springer style, a full-on catfight ensues (sung Operatic-style, of course).
Camp is hilarious both in her potty-mouthed solo about urination, as well as with her creepy, funny facial gestures later on in the show.
Another notable performance is by Chris Yorro, who plays Montel, the loving husband who reveals to his wife Andrea (Mia Freyvecind) that he literally wants to be a baby. He proceeds to strip down to nothing but a metallic blue diaper, suck his thumb, and do what babies do (i.e. use your imagination!).
Equally well-played, Jessica Coker nails the performance of Shawntel — the overweight wife who reveals to her dirt-bag, KKK lovin’ husband Chucky (Manuel Caneri) that her biggest dream is to become a pole dancer. In a way-too small leopard-print leotard, she sings her heart out in the awesome number, “I Just Wanna Dance.”
If Jerry Springer, the Opera ended at Act 1, it would have been a crazy, fun show ending on a high note. Unfortunately, the plot takes a bizarre and slightly confusing twist in Acts 2 and 3 when Jerry Springer gets a surprise visit from Satan (well-played by Jonathan Reisfeld). Through a chain of events, Springer finds himself in Purgatory with the set design and cast members literally looking like they’ve all been through Hell. Although humor is not completely defunct with Adam (Caneri), Eve (Coker), Baby Jesus (Yorro), God (Hess), and other biblical characters now appearing as guests on a darker version of the talk show, the initial uproarious comedy, shock power, and audience connection are somewhat diminished.
As conflict is resolved and the show comes to a close with Springer’s signature line, “Take care of yourselves, and each other,” it seems a larger question is attempting to be asked. Is the “evil” media to blame for society’s lurid behavior or are they merely holding a mirror up to our reality TV-obsessed culture in which we delight in seeing other people’s misfortunes? Who’s to blame?
Bottom-line: Director M. Graham Smith delivers profane fun. If you have a sense of humor, don’t have a stick up your arse and won’t be offended by KKK members in a Rockettes-style kick line, you’ll enjoy getting the sh*it shocked out of you.
Now through October 16th