Jerry Springer: The Opera
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2002
Witness triumph, tragedy and trailer trash as high-art meets low in the first concert performances of the new genre-breaking opera based on America's most lurid talk show and the host who brought worldwide television audiences programs entitled Pregnant by a Transsexual, Here Come the Hookers, and I Refuse to Wear Clothes.
It all makes sense now. Overemotional fat people in torment over their screwed-up lives - opera and Jerry Springer are a perfect match.
But it takes the genius of people like Stewart Lee and his co-writer Richard Thomas not only to see the link between high and low culture, but make such a visionary leap to create such an awesome full-blown production around this simple idea.
Clearly it's a great gag, but the show is so much more than that basic juxtaposition. Yes, classically trained voices belting out expletive-riddled arias about how 'My Mum Used To Be My Dad' or 'I Used To Be A Lap-Dancing Pre-Operative Transvestite' is indeed very funny in itself. But there's a hell of a lot more to this simply awesome production.
Jerry Springer has been given the full opera treatment. The Teflon host has an inner Valkyrie dictating his conscience, trailer-trash guests balefully lament thier yearning to be on TV, and the show ultimately climaxes in a full descent-into-hell, fire-and-brimstone good-versus-evil confrontation that packs a almighty dramatic punch.
What more could you want of a show? Passionate conflict, impressive displays of brilliantly imaginative swearing, a cast of glamorous drag queens and pitifully sordid crack whores, the resolution of the eternal battle between good and evil. There's even an outrageously bad taste Ku Klux Klan song-and-dance number that puts Springtime For Hitler to shame. This show's got the lot - and then some.
Without exception, every one of the huge cast looks and sounds amazing, from the chorus singers who comprise the on-stage audience to Jerry himself and his stoic bouncer Steve. Costumes perfectly evoke the American underclass Springer feeds off, and the brilliant performers prompt laughs before they even sing a word - and when they dowow.
Unforgettable numbers (if that's the word - I'm no opera aficionado, well, I wasn't until now) include the inspired Talk To The Hand, Bisexual Bye-Bye and In-Bred Three-Nippled Cousin-Fucker.
In a fringe where most comedy shows comprise little more than a microphone and black backdrop - and maybe even a multimedia PowerPoint demonstration - Jerry Springer The Opera is reassuringly expensive. A full-blown production with a cast of around 20 and a small orchestra doesn't come cheap, but its producers can rest easy that they'll get a healthy return when the show clears up on Broadway and the West End - as it inevitably will.
It doesn't matter if you're not a fan of opera, or of the compelling car-crash viewing that is Jerry Springer, this has to be the must-see show of the fringe. Bring on the pitiful losers, the weirdos and the creeps - and have the time of your life.