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Springer opera spawns C4 show

The man behind Jerry Springer: The Opera is working on a six-part series for Channel 4.

Richard Thomas, who worked on the hit show with stand-up Stewart Lee, has started two write the self-contained half-hour operas for later broadcast.

Lee said: "Last year we were involved in a late-night BBC2 comedy [the ill-fated Attention Scum, with Simon Munnery] which was about a third opera, and the executives kept telling us to cut back on it. Now the same people are after longer bits."

The pair were talking in a public 'platform event' at the National Theatre, where the show is nearing the end of a sell-out run before transferring to the West End's Cambridge Theatre next month. It is also expected to transfer to Broadway, possibly next autumn.

Lee told how he directed the show, despite never having seen an opera or piece of musical theatre, nor ever watching Springer's TV show.

"My main thing as a director is that people need to face the front, and the audience need to hear what's going on.

"I don't think it's hard to direct, the comic timing is in what's been written anyway."

And of his ignorance of opera, he concluded: "Any opera that isn't about an American talk show is rubbish."

Lee also explained that earlier legal challenges by the Studios USA, which owns the rights to the TV show, had receded.

"They found out about the show in February 2002, and they weren't very happy about it. It wasn't Jerry himself, but Studios USA.

"We sent them a libretto to try to get them to invest, but it only seemed to make matters worse. They objected to the language, sexual and religious content. Which is odd considering their show.

"Jerry saw the opera in Edinburgh, and I think he was expecting it to be a satirical attack on him - and it's not that. I've tried really hard not to have an opinion on him so it isn't that."

"We hid behind some chairs to watch how he reacted, and he laughed at everything - apart from one line about him sleeping with a prostitute."

Of the legal situation, he said: "I don't know what's happening now. We've done this and no one's stopped it. So I assume it's OK."

Thomas said the show was originally intended to expand the appeal of opera. "We're bringing opera to a wider audience," he joked. "So they can hate it too.

"Now we're going to the West End, we have to sell the idea that although it's an opera, you're not going to be bored."

To buy tickets to the Cambrige Theatre show


Published: 16 Sep 2003

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