Jerry Springer: The Opera is probably as good as any opera about Jerry Springer could be. That’s not an endorsement. Still, if you’ve spent your life looking for the show where you can hear a soprano sing “Piss on me, you whore” with all the self-seriousness of an Aida, then you’ve come to the right place.
We begin with a chorus solemnly chanting “Je-e-rry” like Gregorian monks. Soon, the man himself (Terrence Mann) appears to facilitate conversations between couples with guilty secrets: there’s Dwight (Luke Grooms), who is not only sleeping with his fiancée, Peaches (Florrie Bagel), but her best friend, the crack-addicted Zandra (Beth Kirkpatrick), as well as a “chick with a dick,” Tremont (Sean Patrick Doyle). After Dwight, we meet Montel (Justin Keyes), who wants to bring diapers and fecal play into his sex life with Andrea (Elizabeth Loyacano). If your conscience troubles you, if you think he’s exploiting his guests, Jerry has an answer for you: “Everybody has the right to a voice.” It’s a weak argument: did Joe Dirt give voice to poor whites? The Ringer to people with disabilities? In any case, Jerry Springer: The Opera, narrativized as it is, has all the trashiness of the television show without the prurient pleasure of actually watching real people.
Before intermission, Jerry is shot, and Act III takes place in hell: Satan (Will Swenson) wants to return to heaven and is demanding an apology from both Christ (Mr. Keyes) and God (Mr. Grooms). Considering the change in scenery, the remainder of the opera is surprisingly repetitive, recycling much of its first half, only this time with the Prince of Darkness screaming, swearing, and riling up the crowd.
For those of us who grew up in the era of South Park, there’s nothing novel about hearing crassness put to music; for those who have seen Tim and Eric, there is nothing enlightening here about the nature of television. I’m sure some will see the specter of Trump in Jerry Springer, but the connection is superficial. This show is really just one long joke: let’s combine the cultural elitism of opera with the lowbrow delights of daytime television. After about ten minutes, that joke stales.