Heaven, Hell and
cast and creators of "Jerry Springer: The Opera" take a journey with
trash-TV host through an underworld of his own making.
Reviewer’s note: This headline has probably been used
more than once before, but it seems particularly apt for this review.
presentation of “Jerry Springer: The Opera” at Carnegie Hall on its
second of two nights January 30 unfolded as an odd mix of opera, musical
comedy and stage play that only truly took off in its second half.
Featuring Harvey Keitel in the title role, speaking his lines between
sung lines and choruses from the rest of the cast, the piece spent its
entire first half re-creating its take on Springer’s show.
For all its renown, Carnegie Hall was far from the ideal venue for this
presentation, as several operatically sung punch lines got utterly lost,
partly because of bad acoustics, and partly because they were sung as
opera rather than in musical theater style. And while opera does play up
the histrionics of the fights between Springer’s guests, the musical
theater moments in the show were more suited to communicating its
The first half of “Jerry Springer: The Opera” presents four different
sets of guests with Keitel as ringmaster, and straightforward songs sung
by the guests, like “Talk to the Hand,” “Diaper Man” and “Poledancer,”
reap laughs. But between these, Keitel’s presence, through no fault of
his own, and maybe only because he’s the only one not singing, comes
But in the second act, everything coalesces, after Keitel/Springer is
shot to end the first act, and embarks on a tour of purgatory, where he
must mediate between Satan, Jesus and God, and their age-old conflicts,
as though they were the typical trashy guests on his show. And there’s
no one better than Scorsese-Catholic-guilt-portrayal veteran Keitel to
handle this material and deliver it with conviction.
This part of “Jerry Springer: The Opera” matches the heights of
combining literate and hilarious material just as “South Park” and
“Monty Python” episodes have. Take just one couplet sung by God (Luke
Grooms), “Thousands of moaning voices/Blaming me for all their wrong
choices.” Even the latter part of the first half, with its chorus of
singing and dancing Klansmen, makes a similar mark, with audacity
reminiscent of Mel Brooks’ “Springtime For Hitler.”
The writers behind “Jerry Springer: The Opera,” Stewart Lee and Richard
Thomas are definitely onto something with their idea of making Jerry
Springer the focal point of their Dante’s “Inferno,” played for laughs
scenario. At points they even really nail (pardon the crucifixion
reference, groan…) the concept. But perhaps if this were “Jerry
Springer: The Rock Opera,” it could really take off as a must-see show
for a long Broadway run.