Bootless Gets Rowdy with Jerry Springer

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by Holly Quinn – Delaware Arts Info Blog

If you’re familiar with Wilmington’s Bootless Stageworks, you know it never shies away from controversial work — and JERRY SPRINGER, THE OPERA (featuring Delaware Arts Info Blog’s own Jessica Graae!) is one of the most no-holds-barred shows they’ve done yet. The British opera (based, of course, on the American “trash-TV” show) has met with protests in the UK since it opened in 2003, offending the religious and sensitive while simultaneously racking up awards. The Bootless production takes the relatively large-scale show and capsulizes it into an intimate, almost interactive event in OperaDelaware’s tiny Black Box Theater.

A couple of things to know about JERRY SPRINGER: First, it’s a true opera — almost. All of the characters sing all of their lines in operatic style with two exceptions: Jerry himself, and his Security guy Steve. And second, there is more profanity, sexual innuendo, culturally insensitive language and stereotyping than any other show I
can think of off hand. And that doesn’t even include the portrayals of God, Jesus and Satan in the third act. Expect it to be extremely funny, expect it to be dark, expect plenty of social commentary, but don’t expect political correctness.

As Jerry, 2012 WMGK Comedy Contest winner Robert Bove effectively takes a central role in the middle of the madness that is his show, with its frenzied audience and parade of lying, cheating guests, all of whom are on the show to reveal a dark secret (or two) to their partners. Catfights, pole-dancing, and emotional solos ensue. When one guest is revealed to be a member of the KKK, things turn violent, moving the action to Purgatory and, eventually, Hell.

The stellar casts features some of the region’s brightest rising opera singers, including Jessica Graae, Elizabeth Zell, Michael Popovsky, Kimberly Christie, Michael Gamache and Cynthia Ballentine, as well as local musical theater denizens Colleen McGinnis, Nichalas Parker, Geoff Bruen, and Robb Russ. Every character (and each actor plays at least two) has their “Jerry Springer Moment” where he or she gets to steal the scene — or at least co-steal it.

The live orchestra, led by James W. Fuerst, blended with the voices without overpowering them nearly perfectly — no small feat in such a small room, with actors who are not mic’d.

Hearing beautiful singing voices use extremely profane language is a big part of the show’s appeal — it’s a juxtaposition that never fails to entertain (though a lot of classic operas are full of similar scandals, so it’s both modern-day parallel and juxtaposition). For this, alone, I would recommend the show. But the JERRY SPRINGER is also more than a freak show — it’s an honest commentary on the cult of “junk” culture that goes deeper than you might expect.

Jerry Springer, The Opera runs through Saturday, October 20. Reserve tickets at bootless.org.