Jerry Springer: The Opera

Note: This review is from 2002

Review by Steve Bennett

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.

Review date: 1 Jan 2002
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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