Lakewood – When Altar Boyz director Scott Spence mentioned to me that he would be directing Jerry Springer The Opera at the Beck Center for the Arts I was immediately intrigued. It didn’t take long for me to see news reports of religious protesters e-mail blasting Lakewood’s professional theatre demanding they put a stop to the award winning opera. America Needs Fatima has protested the show in several US cities and has not successfully stopped a showing. They did however picket the Beck on opening night. 150+ protesters lined Detroit Avenue in front of the facility holding signs and chanting, by the time I saw the show on Sunday night there was only one.
I am (as you well know) a lover of all things theatrical and especially all things controversial. Naturally, I immediately requested tickets. Being Q104′s night time personality makes attending most theatres opening nights difficult, so I made plans to attend the Sunday night performance. The first 3 weeks of the run are already sold out, I consider myself lucky for having been invited to review it.
As I walked into the intimate ‘black box’ studio theatre at the Beck I felt like I was stepping onto an actual television set. Scenic Director Trad A. Burns‘ re-creation of the original Jerry Springer Show set in Chicago was extremely accurate. As the show got underway I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and was immediately drawn into the farcical nature of the plot. The production was very well produced from Martin Cespedes‘ fluid choreography to P.J. Toomey‘s special effects make-up, and the costumes (Jenniver Sparano) were especially accurate.
At this point I must warn you, (you knew this was coming), this is not your grandma’s opera. Jerry Springer The Opera is offensive, irreverent, diabolical, shocking and above all…hilarious! If you are offended by dancing transsexuals, men in diapers, rednecks, racists, dancing KKK members, religious satire, profanity, Satan, Jesus, God, demons or nudity you should steer clear of this production for the sake of your own sanity.
Still reading this? Good, on to the fun stuff. JSTO is loaded with unimaginable shock value and tons of, “Oh no! They’re gonna go there!” moments. I was less surprised by the nudity and profanity than I was by the talented performers that brought the show to life. Matthew Wright was a brilliant and very convincing Jerry Springer bringing more depth to the titular character than I have ever seen from Jerry himself.
If I had to pick the breakout star in the show it would be Gilgamesh Taggett. His bio in the program is almost worth the $28 admission price by itself and his portrayal of Satan was both terrifying and love-able. Diana Farrell did a fantastic job as Baby Jane and Baldwin-Wallace graduate Ryan Bergeron‘s portrayal of ‘tranny’ Tremont was a riot! “Talk to tha hand!”
Again, let me reiterate that this opera takes the first amendment and runs with it. I would not recommend this show for anyone who takes themselves too seriously or for anyone under the age of 18. If you love theater, free speech, poking fun at yourself and the world around you, cursing, fighting and overall craziness, contact the Beck Center, get tickets, buy a beer (no seriously) and prepare yourself for a theatrical ride you will not soon forget. If you don’t…there was a lonely protestor outside who would love some company. I kid I kid!
Jerry Springer The Opera runs at the Beck Center for the Arts until March 27th. For more information and tickets head to BeckCenter.org.
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The views and opinions of the writer are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the view and opinions of CBS Radio, Q104, it’s staff, management or advertisers.
Kory’s past theater reviews: