JERRY SPRINGER - THE OPERA
Saxon, Dean Hussain, Valda Aviks, Wills Morgan, Benjamin Lake, Helen Walsh
,Johan Pearson, Carrie Ellis, Trevor Jary, Annabelle Williams, Nathan
There could have been worse dates on which to open a show new to Liverpool – 06/06/06 for example – but Jerry Springer – The Opera made its Empire debut and held its own in the debate of rights to free speech as well as the four hundred or so protesters outside, who sang hymns and waved placards in time honoured fashion.
So, the performances and the show itself.
First up is Dean Hussain, who plays
the roles of Warm Up Man and Satan with a supreme cock-sureness that
it isn’t too much of a leap in the imagination to believe he might
have been trained as such in both occupations.
Then came Jerry Doppleganger, Rolf Saxon.
Picked out at the back of the auditorium by a beam of strong white light,
Saxon makes his way to the stage through the crowd shaking hands with
the audience (made up largely of the late 20’s to early 30’s
bracket) and posing for pictures, mike in hand. A brave move in itself,
considering a more active protestor had just been ejected.
His part, surprisingly, was not the
main focus of attention however. Yes, his is the hub around which the
show spins, but – in true Springer style – the real stars
are “the guests” and not least of which is Shawntel, a twenty-something
stone wannabe pole dancer, played by Helen Walsh.
Her voice, both in operatic harmony
and in plain old fashioned straight format, is breathtaking in its clarity
and strength, whereas her ability to go from doe-eyed misunderstood
to brawling vixen in the blink of an eye is as near perfect as you could
There are other very fine singing performances
too, from all quarters, but most notable are those turned in by Valda
Aviks and Wills Morgan. Aviks plays three roles; Crack-head pensioner
/ Dwight lover Zandra, irate mother Irene and a less than sympathetic
Mary, all with an operatic style slant lending a paradox to lyrics that
drip with the profanity of the gutter.
Morgan, who plays both a man who wants
to be treated like a baby and fill his nappy for sexual pleasure, as
well as Jesus, is both so full of talent and perfect timing, it is difficult
not to be impressed by all that he does.
Highlight of the show? Without doubt
the part played by a dozen or so Ku Klux Klan members, complete with
hoods, smocks and burning crosses, who enjoy their Jerry Springer moment
to the max. It’s been a long time since something this irreverent
has been this funny and is worth the entrance fee alone, even though
its format has been done before. Seen The Producers? Then you’ve
seen Springtime For Hitler and, in another guise, have seen
this too, though it doesn’t matter.
The first half – set in the studio
of Springer-land – flies past and is interspersed with adverts
that flash up on the continuously busy screens behind, with slogans
sung by the cast that bring the house down.
The second half, during which Jerry
descends into hell and has Adam, Eve, Jesus, Mary and even God as guests,
is somewhat darker and tends to drag a little in places. It is very
easy to see how this section would offend, but again its nothing that
hasn’t been done before a million times. Not that this makes it
right, but it doesn’t necessarily make it wrong either.
Freedom of choice, in this democratic world of ours, has two sides and
both have to be heard.
Jerry Springer – The
Opera is not a masterpiece. It doesn’t have tunes
that you’re going to come out humming or tapping your feet to.
It doesn’t have that many side-splitting “jokes” either
and many of them are in the detail. What it does have in spades is originality,
fast lines and a daring, squirm-inducing pace that races the heart in
a similar manner to that of The Office.
The easily offended should not go, but
then they should know that already unless they’ve been camped
out on Mars since 2003. If they do venture in to see what the fuss is
about, it is doubtful that they will be half as upset as they thought
they might be. All of which says far more for the writers and cast of
this highly entertaining piece of theatre, than I ever could.
you would like to add your comments to this review of 'Jerry Springer
- The Opera' live at the Liverpool
Empire Theatre in June 2006?
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Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit. - Chris High 2003.
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