Jerry Springer: The Opera – Sydney Opera House (26.04.09)

While this might seem like a strange thing to be reviewing on theAUreview, While it may seem like a strange thing to be reviewing on theAUreview, featuring some of Australia’s best singers, including Kate Miller-Heidke as Baby Jane, “Jerry Springer: The Opera” was definitely a musical event. Albeit one unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Clocking it at just over 2 hours, Jerry Springer: The Opera may sound like an absolutely ridiculous idea. And it most certainly is. But it’s this self-awareness which makes it work. Featuring songs such as “Diaper Man,” “Every Last Mother Fucker Should Go Down” and “Poledancer”, most of which a variation of traditional Operatic form, the show certainly doesn’t try and hide itself behind a layer of traditional class. In fact it’s flat-out vulgar and takes on some unexpected controversial themes. Tap dancing KKK members? The battle between God, Jesus and Satan taking centre stage on the Jerry Springer stage “In Hell”? Tick both boxes, and label “hilarious”.

The music was over-the-top, at time side-splitting, and hearing the track “Mama Gimme Smack of the Asshole” come out of the mouth of Kate Miller-Heidke, while dressed in a baby outfit… while her voice echoed off the walls of the illustrious Opera House… certainly something I never thought I’ve have the honour of witnessing. And no doubt the cast and crew enjoyed it just as much. Alison Jiear, an Australian Opera singer who performed as Shawntel in the original West End production, blew everyone away with “I Just Wanna Fucking Dance”. In fact, I dare say she stole the show with that number alone, causing the crowd jump to their feet in celebration of not only her beautiful voice, but the song itself, at its core about the desire to achieve a dream. It just happened to be an overweight women wanting to poledance.

Including Australia’s Jiear, the production featured many of the original performers. David Bedella played the superb “Warm Up Man” as well as “Satan”, an award-winning role he helped create in the UK. Andrew Belvis, the “Chick with a Dick” Tremont was also in the original cast. But for the most part, these were people playing the role for the first time. David Wenham, as Jerry, is of course in this category. Like the real-life Jerry, the character here simply acts as executor and precipitator to the madness around him, serving the crowd with dead-pan expressions, and a few great one liners here and there. I highly doubt we’ll ever see him play the role again, in fact I doubt we’ll ever see the full production in the country again, so it was a joy to experience it.

Now in all this, buried underneath was a show which certainly wasn’t perfect, and is no doubt changing with every new production. I would have loved to have seen some more interaction between Jerry and his Viking Conscience, and some of the songs did fall a bit flat, but on the whole everyone got what they expected – an often hilarious, but always fun, exploration of the madness of modern life, juxtaposed in the second half to the stories of the bible. Remember how I said it was a ridiculous idea? Well there you go.

But let’s be honest here.
As if it wasn’t worth going for the tap dancing Klu Klux Klan alone.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.