New York gets its Jerry Springer moment

...and the reviews are OK

New Yorkers have had their first taste of Jerry Springer: The Opera – and the critical reactions have been positive, if guarded.

A pared-down concert version show, written by comedian Stewart Lee and composer Richard Thomas, has been performed over the past two nights at Carnegie Hall. Harvey Keitel played the trashy talk-show host in his first New York stage appearance in more than 20 years.

It comes four years after the show had set its sights on Broadway, but reported problems finding a backer in the wake of protest from fundamentalist Christian groups scuppered those plans.

Protesters turned out at the Carnegie Hall this week, handing out leaflets urging passers-by to ‘sign up to defend Jesus and Mary’ The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property called the show a ‘brutal ridiculing of the Catholic faith’ and said: ‘It contains so much profanity, nudity and blasphemous content.’

However reviewers generally enjoyed the performance, the verve and the ideas behind the show – even if they had reservations about the writing, especially in the second act in which Springer mediates between Jesus and Satan.

The New York Daily News said: ‘The joy of the performers really came through in concert… and helped compensate for the weaknesses in the material. Though the show is often hysterical, its major sins are being repetitive, rambling and ultimately a one-joke show.’

Showbiz trade paper Variety concluded: ‘The show's weaknesses - most notably a structurally repetitious second act that loses focus precisely when it should be becoming more thematically cohesive - remain evident, but its satiric bite is as sharp as ever, its scurrilous humor just as tasty and its musical ambition as uplifting.’

But the Philadelphia Inquirer was more downbeat, deciding: ‘Though an accomplished, entertaining, musically sophisticated and dramatically uncompromising look at American culture at its freakiest, the opera is the victim of its own ambition and passing fads. Its real-life subject peaked years ago.’

However, the show’s biggest fan was also the most influential: The New York Times. Its reviewer called the show a ‘remarkable work’ and pleaded for it to be given a fuller run, saying: ‘Please, let the pole-dancing fat lady sing again.’

‘There’s much more than easy satire afoot,’ reviewer Ben Brantley wrote. ‘If there weren’t, the basic joke of combining sacred music and profane content would endure for only the length of a cabaret comedy sketch.’

Read his review in full, here.

Here's a local news report about the show:

Published: 31 Jan 2008

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