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Jerry Springer The Opera ****

The silent protesters standing outside the Musical Theatre @ George Square venue highlight the stern hatred that many religious circles have of Jerry Springer The Opera.  And with its shower of obscenities and mickey-taking of Christian/Judeo philosophy, it’s easy to see why some may be offended.

But like most satire, Jerry Springer has much bigger fish to fry: it launches an all-out assault on modern celebrity and recorded-confessional culture and how everyone seems to want their “fifteen minutes” in the spotlight, no matter who’s watching and how they do it.

The production is split in two acts, going from a musical rendition of an episode to a broadcast from hell…literally.  All of the production’s dialogue is sung, with the exception of the character of Springer, who never sings a note but instead speaks over the music.

This is a script that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  And the company, comprised of students from the RSAMD’s Musical Theatre course, are more than game for all of the lewd lyrics and actions that the script demands of them.  There are some really nice voices and funny performances on show, even if pacing is a bit of a problem at times.

But what about the actual material?  Is it as ‘evil’ as some groups would have you believe?  Well, no; but it is riddled with some problems.

I rather love the first act, with its cheeky, almost relentless, satire on the shooting of a Springer episode, taking us from the entrance of the boisterous audience to the presentations of three segments, all over-the-top and full of bad taste.  There are some truly brilliant moments and ideas, including funny takes on American commercials and some harsh but accurate observations of celebrity culture.  The big line ‘This is my Jerry Springer moment’ is actually quite frightening.  Do people really want to be on TV that badly?  A glance at the current TV schedule unfortunately says’ yes’.

But then we come to the second act.  In truth, it feels like it’s there for two purposes: a) to allow the musical to be considered full-length and b) to piss people off.  Nothing that is said in the second act has not been mentioned in the first, and though some may find the depiction of Adam and Eve as ‘trailer trash’ and the presentation of other religious figures in a humorous light as funny, others will surely fail to get the ‘joke’.  There is a possibly good satire buried in the second act.  Satan using the Jerry Springer show to get an apology from God is an inspired idea, but the end result is a parade of cheap jokes.  Yes, a lot of it is funny, and I myself did laugh frequently at it, but it is all so mean-spirited and seems to exist purposely to anger.  With such choices, is anyone really surprised that any production of this play gets religious circles so worked up?

So, if the thought of musical satire, where the KKK tap-dance and religious figures are sarcastically played, makes you angry, just run away.  However, those looking for a fun, energetic distraction filled with gross-out laughs and a ‘we will do anything for a laugh’ air about it will find much to like.

A shorter version of this was written for What’s OnStage.com.

Playing at the Musical Theatre @ George Square 14-16, 20-23, 27-31 August 18.30.

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