Jerry Springer Puts Tour on Hold as Venues Pull OutDate: 17 March 2005
The planned regional tour of the multi award-winning but ever-controversial Jerry Springer - The Opera, which finished its run at the West End’s Cambridge Theatre on 19 February 2005, has been curtailed and postponed. Due to launch from Manchester this October, the tour will not now take place until at least 2006, though no dates have yet been announced.
According to producers at Avalon, of the 36 regional theatres that were due to receive the musical, 11 have now pulled out following actions from pressure group Christian Voice. In January, the same evangelical organisation spearheaded a campaign against the BBC’s broadcast of Jerry Springer, generating a record 45,000 complaints. More recently, it succeeded in halting proceeds from a performance of the show being donated to cancer charity, Maggie’s Centres.
Christian Voice has written letters to 250 regional theatres warning them that they face “prayer vigil” protests and possible court action for blasphemy if they stage the musical. Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice, says: “We praise God for the closure of Jerry Springer - The Opera in the West End, but we are now praying it doesn’t open anywhere else. This is about the holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our members feel passionately about Jesus because he gave his life that we might live. They will be watching their local theatres carefully.”
Promising "triumph, tragedy and trailer trash as high art meets low", Jerry Springer - The Opera is based on America's most lurid talk show host who has broadcast programmes such as "Pregnant by a Transsexual", "Here Come the Hookers" and "I Refuse to Wear Clothes". In the musical, Springer suffers the worst day of his career, during which he's taken from his studio to both heaven and hell, confronting some of his bizarre guests.
Religious protestors say that, aside from the expletive-laden score, the most offensive aspects of the musical are the depictions of God as an impotent fool and Jesus as a nappy-wearer who admits he’s “a little bit gay”. BBC Two’s unedited broadcast attracted a television audience of 2.4 million (a record TV viewing figure for a musical or opera).
A cult hit in concert form at Battersea Arts Centre and the Edinburgh Fringe, the full-fledged version of Jerry Springer - The Opera had its world premiere on 29 April 2003 at the National Theatre, where it had an extended, sell-out season running in repertory for five months at the NT Lyttelton. It transferred to the West End on 10 November 2003 (previews from 14 October), when the real-life Jerry Springer flew into town to attend the opening night. Last year, the show - written by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee, who also directs – won four Best Musical prizes at the Olivier, Critics’ Circle, Evening Standard and Whatsonstage.com’s own Theatregoers’ Choice Awards.
- by Terri Paddock