If you’re familiar with Wilmington’s Bootless Stageworks, you know it never shies away from controversial work—and JERRY SPRINGER, THE OPERA is one of the most no-holds-barred shows they have done yet. The British opera (based, of course, on the American “trash-TV” show) has met with protests in the UK since it opened in 2003, offending the religious and sensitive while racking up awards. The Bootless production takes the large-scale show and encapsulates it into an intimate event in OperaDelaware’s tiny Black Box Theater.
A couple of things to know about JERRY SPRINGER: First, it’s a true opera—almost. All of the characters sing all of their lines in operatic style with two exceptions: Jerry himself (2012 WMGK Comedy Contest winner Robert Bove), and his security guy Steve. And second, there is more profanity, sexual innuendo, culturally insensitive language and stereotyping than any other show I can think of. And that doesn’t even include the portrayals of God, Jesus, and Satan in the third act. Expect it to be extremely funny, expect it to be dark, expect plenty of social commentary, but don’t expect political correctness.
Bove is effective in the middle of the madness that is Jerry’s show, with its frenzied audience and parade of lying, cheating guests on the show to reveal a dark secret (or two) to their partners. Catfights, pole-dancing, and emotional solos ensue. When one guest is revealed to be a member of the KKK, things turn violent, moving the action to Purgatory and, eventually, Hell.
The stellar casts features some of the region’s brightest rising opera singers, including Elizabeth Zell, Jessica Graae, Michael Popovsky, Kimberly Christie, Michael Gamache and Cynthia Ballentine, as well as local musical theater denizens Colleen McGinnis, Nichalas Parker, Geoff Bruen, and Robb Russ. Every character (and each actor plays at least two) has their “Jerry Springer Moment” where he or she gets to steal the scene. Parker is memorable (and hysterical) in his dual role as Montel, who confesses to his girlfriend that he likes to dress as a baby, and Jesus Christ.
The live orchestra, led by James W. Fuerst, blended with the voices without overpowering them nearly perfectly—no small feat in such a small room, with unmiked actors.
Hearing beautiful singing voices use extremely profane language is a big part of the show’s appeal — it’s a juxtaposition that never fails to entertain (though a lot of classic operas are full of similar scandals, so it’s both modern-day parallel and juxtaposition). For this, alone, I would recommend the show. But the JERRY SPRINGER is also more than a freak show—it’s an honest commentary on the cult of “junk” culture that goes deeper than you might expect.
JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA
Music by Richard Thomas
Book and Lyrics by Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas
Vocal Arrangement by Martin Lowe
Orchestral Arrangement by Martin Koch
Stage Director: Rosanne DellAversano
Music Director: James W. Fuerst
October 12-20, 2012
4 South Poplar Street
Wilmington, DE 19801