“Jerry Springer-The Opera” has FINALLY arrived in NYC. And it’s a Hot Mess. Are we surprised? No. Because that’s exactly what it’s SUPPOSED to be. An operatic reflection of the infamous, scatological, violent talk show that started America’s plummeting decline into reality TV. The Kardashians are incredibly well-bred and delightful compared to this bunch of miscreants, who were birthed in London in “the recent past” April 29, 2003, but it feels like the early 90s, the 1890s. It’s taken nearly 20 years to get here, and I can understand why. It’s not very good. Though it stars the magnificent Will Swenson as Satan, and that should be enough. But it isn’t.It’s a one-note piece of Gong Show dreck, but that’s what it’s supposed to be. That’s exactly what “The Jerry Springer” TV show it’s based on IS. And it’s still running in syndication. That should be SIN-dick-cation,to this day.
So now we have it onstage, and it’s an opera. That’s a funny idea. I kept hoping somebody would do “The Stephen Holt Show:The Opera” which would be much more classy, and funny, witty if not wit itself with celebrity guests in fabulous restaurants. The title would be “Shooting Celebrities in Restaurants.”
But “Jerry Springer- the Opera” is vulgar, crass and maddeningly one note. And the note she sang is this. The magnificently named Florrie Bagel(so she calls herself in the program. That’s the actress’s name. Not the character’s.) When her character, Peaches, sings (for decency’s sake, I’m going to shoot blanks here.) “Oh Blank. Blank! Oh blank-blank. Blanket-ity, blank. Blank!) That’s the one-note joke, and then the show’s over. That really is the extent of the blanketity-blank plot. It goes no deeper than that.
The New Group is presenting this mad(dening) opus at the Pershing Square Signature Theater complex, the Linney, to be exact, at 410 West 42nd Street. It seats 200, but most of the 17-member cast occupies the front row seats, and sings from there, so the immersion factor is immense. Nearly as immense as the avoirdupois of the female thighs so completely displayed in tiny mini-skirts. (I realized I’d never SEEN thighs that size. On a woman.) But somehow there was unexpected, an un- self-conscious, unabashed beauty there. Especially when African-American Tiffany Mann sings “Talk to the Ass” or as the program demurely lists it “I Just Wanna Dance.” (pictured below)Shawntel, the wannbe pole dancer (read stripper) becomes a thing of true transformative beauty here. Her ass-tounding voice raises the roof and the rafters, and while this aria is stage center (along with the pole) “Jerry Springer-the Opera” kinda works in its own twisted way.
If there were more Phat numbers like that, there might really be a show here. So Act One is mildly diverting (in the most tired sense of the word). “Chick with a Dick” jokes date back, badly, to the ’70s, and beyond. The gay humor is as insulting as everything else. You can see why Andrew Cunanan killed gay people like this. Since when did transvestism become trite? Since Act One of “Gerry Springer-the Opera.” “My Father is now my Mother” the chorus sings. It’s sad. It’s just SAD.
But wait! Or rather don’t wait. Leave! Hurry for the exits before Act Two, which finds our Gerry assassinated by the tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan and in Hell. And yes, it’s as boring and flat as a pancake. Flat instead of Phat.
But there are audiences who get high from over-stuffed, under-talented epics like this and run forever despite what good sense and sensibilities dictate. “Walt Disney’s Alladin” comes to mind. So it may run, but it’s announced to close on March 11. But don’t worry, Springer-ites, you can always turn your beloved Jerry on on your TV or mobile app. It’s not Off-Broadway. It’s not Opera, but “Jerry S.” on TV is as flat as this is. Mostly.