Seen Sunday evening June 26, 2008 at the Studio Theatre, Washington DC, the Metheny auditorium. 4 slithy toads.
For several years now, the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC has been my second home for live stage, often as a second chance for shows I regretted missing in New York or was lukewarm about seeing but for a slightly more modest ticket price or as part of a weekend away or just because the Studio had chosen them ultimately seemed worth a look.
Their current 2nd Stage production of Jerry Springer, The Opera, is the biggest production they've ever done, with over 30 cast members and an orchestra.
It may very well be one of the best productions they've ever done. When the only complaint you have is that the curtain call wasn't really sufficiently long enough to give sufficient love back to the cast, well then I think you're in love.
This wasn't a second chance or a lukewarm. Jerry Springer had opened in London five years ago, and while I had never seen the talk show I knew from reading the reviews that this was a show I wanted to see. And it never came to NYC, except for a one night (one weekend?) concert staging at Carnegie Hall. This was the show's east coast premiere, and I made a special trip to DC this weekend to be sure I could see it ahead of an August from Hell when I will be just about everywhere but working or relaxing at home.
And thank heavens I did. I guess if I'd never seen it I couldn't have missed it, but oh if I had...
The first act of the show, which is very literally an opera, around 98% sung and around 2% spoken, is a glorious musical mash of what an episode of the talk show might have been. A man who's two months away from marrying, having an affair with his fiancee's childhood friend, and a second with a hooker, but still in love with his wife. A man who wants to be in diapers for his girlfriend and to truly be her baby. Another man whose involved with a pole dancer and the KKK. It ends with Springer being shot, and the second act is a grand fantasia on Jerry Springer in hell, a talk show by way of Mel Brooks or South Park, with the devil and Jesus and Adam, Eve, Mary and the eternal one in a racing outfit, Godspeed for Gods Team. Of course on the jacket the Godspeed is split between the S on one side of the buttons and the P on the other, so it kind of reads a little different on the costume than it does in my blog. It ends with 30 Jerry Springers on stage saluting the one and only.
It's in stunningly awful taste. The program reminds that the production includes "strong language, adult themes, nudity (simulated), violent (simulated), profanity, obscenity, vulgarity, blasphemy, fog, haze, smoke, fire, gunshots, cigar-smoking, bubble-blowing and confetti-throwing." With regard to the first eight items on the list I assure you the list is fully and abundantly accurate, and thereafter simply accurate. It all works with dead-on aim; I believe the bubble-blowing malfunction by the security guard is intentional.
The production is lively and immersive. 18 members of the cast are in the audience for the first act, enthusiastically commenting on the on-stage events, and in a few instances going on stage and becoming much like the chorus in Sweeney Todd. (& in fact many of the cast members in this production have Sweeney Todd in their credits, others the DC production of the Titanic.) You're fully surrounded and totally caught up in the goings-on, and since the setting is intimate there is no room for the cast to call it in. I lingered in the lobby for a few minutes after the show, and overheard one of the cast saying they'd rehearsed for five weeks. I'd been unhappy to see the show only 4 performances into its run which can sometimes be too soon for the kinks to work out, but there were none to be found from my up close vantage point.
I should probably single some people out for particular praise, or show my learnedness by commenting on this or that aspect of the production, but it doesn't seem fair. It's a 33-person ensemble, and the production is totally working on every level.
It's supposed to run thru August 17, and if you are in the DC area you must see it. Unless some of those eight items on the list seem likely to offend you when present in gleeful abundance. With luck the production will extend. I'm sure hoping it does because I can't possibly see it again until mid to late September, and I would very much like to do so.
Did I tell you that I liked this?
Next season the Studio has: The Road to Mecca by Athol Fugard, a possible lukewarm; Grey Gardens, a second chance; The Seafarer which I shouldn't see because it's by the colosally overrated Conor McPherson and is about people being drunk, but maybe; Rock 'n' Roll by Tom Stoppard which I don't think so; and August Wilson's Radio Golf (also overrated, but maybe, it's easier to be a student of the theatre at DC prices than NYC. And also Blackbird by David Muse which I've never heard of, and The Receptionist by Adam Bock, and more. So there's a good chance you'll be seeing some more blog posts from me over the next year from the Studio.
- The Brillig Blogger
- A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.