Jerry Springer: The Opera

Thu, Nov 3, 2011, 00:00

Grand Canal Theatre

There are people with backcombed hair wearing wife-beaters hanging around the stalls. They are the rowdy onlookers for Jerry Springer’s sensationalist chat-show and the 45-member chorus for Jerry Springer: The Opera, a National Youth Musical Theatre production at the Grand Canal Theatre.

When Jerry Springer: The Operapremiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2002 it soon developed a cult following, its blend of high and low cultural forms (opera and trash TV) hailed as the archetypal postmodern musical. By the time it was televised in 2005, it had attracted as much controversy as praise; the BBC received more than 55,000 complaints about profanity and blasphemy, fuelled no doubt by the deliberately provocative juxtaposition of expletives and characters from the Bible.

Musical numbers such as Chick with a Dick, Mama Gimme Smack on the Assholeand Eat Excretegive some indication of Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas’ intentions. Ten years, however, has done the musical no favours, and while the complex operatic/ Sondheimesque score maintains its currency, the three-act structure now seems an extended one-note sketch.

The musical’s main offences now are its unbearably repetitive lyrics and its over-reliance on expletives rather than observation or humour.

This is a real pity for the extremely talented members of NYMT. The chorus – the true stars of this production – provide continuous musical support to the solo performers: chat-show guests such as fetishist Baby Jane (the outstanding Jean Wallace) or transsexual cuckold Tremont (the excellent Dez Allen); Jerry’s adversary, the devilishly goading Warm-Up Man (Eoin Cannon, who carries much of the first act of the show); and Jerry (“I don’t solve problems, I televise them”) Springer himself (Simon Delaney, in the musical’s only non-singing part).

There were several walk-outs from the half-full theatre on opening night; a real shame when you consider the quality of indigenous talent on show.

Perhaps for their next production NYTM might consider sticking to more conventional, or at least better, material. They might get the audience they deserve.

Runs until Saturday