Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Jerry Springer Opera ignites protest

The Beck Center for the Arts in Cleveland is running “Jerry Springer: The Opera” during the 2011 spring season. The opera, which opened in April 2006 in London, is the brainchild of British comedians Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee. The listing on the Beck Center’s website says “Strippers, cheating spouses and tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan members” will all be a part of the opera that London’s Sunday Times calls “a shocking, irresistibly funny masterpiece.”† But members of the surrounding community have started a continuous protest of the opera, claiming that the Beck Center is allowing for blasphemy and religious intolerance by producing and running a show with such controversial themes.

The name Jerry Springer rings a bell in the ear of most people who have ever watched daytime television. As host of the famous daytime talk syndicate “The Jerry Springer Show,” Springer allows guests to vent their problems on stage, in front of a live audience and eventually on TVs across the cable-viewing world. “Problems” is used in the broadest sense here, as Springer has hosted shows focused on themes of divorce, infidelity, pornography, pedophilia, prostitution, incest, homo- and hetero-phobia ó even zoophilia. Most of the problems brought to the stage by the show’s guests result in violence, fighting and sometimes even teary-eyed apologies.

Reducing a television show with such a broad pool of content into a theatrical performance yielded some very interesting and controversial results. No character in “Jerry Springer: The Opera” has any spoken lines with the exception of Jerry Springer. All other cast members sing their lines, in operatic aria.† Select pieces from the opera’s songbook include “Chick With a Dick” and “Every Last Mother Fó Should Go Down.” The content of the opera is not for children or the faint of heart, but in the eyes of the protesters in Lakewood, the opera’s content is devoid of morality and a blemish on both the community and the Beck Center. Undoubtedly fueling the protests is the fact that two-thirds of the opera is written in a biblical context. Apparently, in the second and third acts, Springer’s character mediates while the guests on his show take on biblical characterizations and proceed to discuss and ridicule Jesus Christ.

Responding to the protests, president of the Beck Center for the Arts Lucinda Einhouse stated, “Religion is not the subject of satire. It’s a tool used in the satire. In any case, you’re free to come ó or not to come.”† Einhouse points out that the opera uses biblical references to satirize the absurdity of daytime TV programs,† that often prey on the “reality” of human interactions and the ensuing histrionics.

Einhouse says, “Chances are that something you see tonight may offend you. Chances are even better that you will laugh at the absurdity of the world around us.”

“Jerry Springer: The Opera” has won several awards including the Best New Musical award at the 2004 Laurence Olivier Awards, the 2003 Critics’ Circle Awards and the 2003 Evening Standard Awards.

The opera opened at the Beck Center on Feb. 18, and is running until March 27.

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