Theater Review: ‘Jerry Springer – the Opera’ at Pershing Square Signature Center

By Jonathan Spira on 26 February 2018
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Although I never watched TV’s “Jerry Springer Show,” I was more than just curious to see how a talk show that required multiple security personnel on stage to stop brawls and other similar entanglements would work on stage.

The truth is, it, that is “Jerry Springer – The Opera,” didn’t, and you, dear reader, need not read further if you have something more pressing to do, such as taking out the trash.

Indeed, trash is what the Springer show is about despite the host’s background as a well-regarded politician who once was the mayor of Cincinnati.


Despite an extremely talented cast (Terence Mann in the title role and a deliciously devilish Will Swenson as both the Warm-Up Man and Satan himself) as well as a memorable song (“The Awesome Foursome,” with lyrics we simply don’t have enough asterisks for at Frequent Business Traveler), it probably wasn’t as much fun as being in Springer’s actual studio audience in the show’s heyday (it debuted in 1991 and is still being produced).

As Swenson’s Warm-Up Man tells the audience, “Nobody’s allowed on stage / And nobody’s allowed to / Throw things at the guests,” while the audience make it quite clear what it came to see: “Fat people fighting / Open crotch sighting / Pimps in bad suits / Mothers who are prostitutes.”

The guests are predictable: Dwight (Luke Grooms) has cheated on his fiancé, Peaches (Florrie Bagel), and also slept with her best friend, Zandra (Beth Kirkpatrick). The name calling (“Dirty whore, dirty whore / Filthy dirty manky skanky slut whore” is funny at first but along with the rest of the show, becomes tedious as the performances drags on.

Jennifer Allen is a standout as Mary (and also, earlier, as Irene) in “Where Were You?” as was understudy Brandon Contreras as Jesus.

While the first act is ribald and titillating and dispenses more obscenities per minute than anything that preceded it, unless you put George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” on a loop, the second act, which moves Jerry from talk-show host to a kind of Henry Kissinger who has to negotiate peace between Jesus and Satan, fails to engage. In addition, the theater’s acoustics were not designed for opera-style singing and the result is often screechy.

However, in the New York theater scene, there are still enough people who want to vicariously enjoy their own Jerry Springer moment, but please don’t confuse this with any other opera you’ve seen.


Jerry Springer – The Opera
Pershing Square Signature Center
480 W 42nd Street
New York, N.Y. 10036
Runtime: Two hours and 15 minutes

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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