Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Jerry Springer: The Opera

[spoilers throughout]

Yes, curse words sung operatically by incredibly talented people are startlingly funny. And arguments about who's cheating on who, complete with hair-pulling, are also great fun presented operatically. But they have diminishing returns, and, although I completely was completely enjoying the first act of Jerry Springer: The Opera, I began to wonder if it goes anywhere.

It does: it goes to purgatory, complete with biblical characters (e.g., Satan, Adam, Eve, Jesus). And guess what? They have as many issues as the humans in Act I and behave as badly. And, yes, it's a blast.

I suspect the show wants to provide social commentary, and perhaps it did when it was first written. Now, it mostly provides entertainment--first-class, top-notch, occasionally side-splitting entertainment. And much of the music is beautiful, to boot.

Richard Thomas (music, book, and lyrics) and Stewart Lee (book and lyrics) could not ask for a better production than the one currently being presented by the New Group. John Rando directs the craziness of the show with perfect pacing and mood, and Chris Bailey's choreography is wonderfully character-specific and wonderfully wonderful.

And the cast is full of amazingly talented people who can sing magnificently, act well, and move--and who also have prodigious amounts of energy. They are Jennifer Allen, Florrie Bagel, Brandon Contreras (remarkably poised and effective subbing in two challenging roles), Sean Patrick Doyle, Brad Greer, Luke Grooms, Nathaniel Hackmann, Billy Hepfinger, Beth Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth Loyacano, Terence Mann (a convincingly glib Jerry Springer), Tiffany Mann, Jill Paice, Kim Steele, Will Swenson (a sexy, commanding Satan), and Nichole Turner.

The design components are also top-of-the-line, appropriate, and funny. Scenic design is by Derek McLane; costume design is by Sarah Laux; and lighting design by Jeff Croiter.

One of the strengths of this fabulous production is the small theater in which it is currently appearing. I would imagine that Jerry Springer: The Opera will move to Broadway and will still be marvelous. However, if you can see it in its current incarnation, do so. The show happens all around the audience, and the intimacy is one of its major charms.

Wendy Caster
(press ticket; 4th row on the aisle; shook "Jerry Springer's" hand)

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