London gets Jerry-rigged

He may seem an unlikely subject for an opera, but a brash new musical about Jerry Springer is the hottest ticket in town

Memo to: Jerry Springer

From: Peter Bart

re: exploiting the exploiter

LONDON — Here’s a question I’ve never asked anyone: How does it feel to be an opera, Jerry?

What’s it like to learn you’re the hottest ticket in London — the hottest in years? And to know that the showbiz community is saying, “Jerry Springer’s an opera? You’ve got to be kidding.”

Not that you had anything to do with the show — let’s make that clear. Its star bears an astonishing resemblance to you, even holds his cards like you, but it ends there.

Indeed, I don’t think you would have designed a show in which you’re assassinated and go straight to hell, only to preside over fervid colloquies between God and Satan. All this with music and dance, no less.

You’re not exactly an empathetic figure in this show, Jerry. You emerge as a cynical impresario who exploits the freaks and deviates who parade before you. You’re the titan of trailer trash.

Mind you, it’s a brilliant show — brilliant and scatological. A move to Broadway seems inevitable. There was a 10-minute ovation at final curtain the other night from normally reserved Brits.

Not everyone is that exuberant. Arnold Wesker, the playwright, wrote a piece for the Daily Telegraph last week charging that “an air of fraudulence pervades the show.” The reason, Jerry, is that you bring forth these exhibitionists and losers “not to solve their problems just to televise them.”

In Wesker’s view, “trash is trash and eternally depressing.”

Well, Wesker may be depressed but London’s audiences seem ebullient. The sheer outrageousness and vulgarity of the show has created the sort of fever reminiscent of “The Producers” in New York two years ago.

True, “Jerry Springer — The Opera,” doesn’t have a chorus line of old ladies with aluminum walkers, but it does have 50 members of the Ku Klux Klan doing a pretty terrific tap dance in full wardrobe.

It also has a clever set, some show-stopping songs by Richard Thomas, hyperactive direction by Stewart Lee and a tinge of anti-Americanism that resonates with post-Iraq Brits.

And how do you emerge from all this, Jerry? On the one hand, you’ve been immortalized on the English stage — the National Theater, no less. You’re no longer merely a daytime talkshow host, you’re an icon.

But an icon who ends up in hell, Jerry — at least in the show. You’re this cold-ass exploiter who brings forth not just your tired and your poor but your deviant and demented. You’re the patron saint of transgender exhibitionists.

This is a career?

Who am I to judge? I never thought of you as opera material either.

More Voices

  • Hollywood Safe Workplace

    Why Hollywood Needs to Lead the Way in Showing How to Create a Safer Workplace

    He may seem an unlikely subject for an opera, but a brash new musical about Jerry Springer is the hottest ticket in town Memo to: Jerry Springer From: Peter Bart re: exploiting the exploiter LONDON — Here’s a question I’ve never asked anyone: How does it feel to be an opera, Jerry? What’s it like […]

  • Seven Seconds

    Fighting the Racial Bias at the Core of Hollywood’s Cop Shows (Guest Column)

    He may seem an unlikely subject for an opera, but a brash new musical about Jerry Springer is the hottest ticket in town Memo to: Jerry Springer From: Peter Bart re: exploiting the exploiter LONDON — Here’s a question I’ve never asked anyone: How does it feel to be an opera, Jerry? What’s it like […]

  • Tony Awards Sightlines Column

    How to Produce the Tony Awards: 5 Unsolicited Tips

    He may seem an unlikely subject for an opera, but a brash new musical about Jerry Springer is the hottest ticket in town Memo to: Jerry Springer From: Peter Bart re: exploiting the exploiter LONDON — Here’s a question I’ve never asked anyone: How does it feel to be an opera, Jerry? What’s it like […]

  • Under the Silver Lake

    Cannes 2018's Hidden Thrill: The Opportunity to Find New Voices

    He may seem an unlikely subject for an opera, but a brash new musical about Jerry Springer is the hottest ticket in town Memo to: Jerry Springer From: Peter Bart re: exploiting the exploiter LONDON — Here’s a question I’ve never asked anyone: How does it feel to be an opera, Jerry? What’s it like […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content