What could you possibly say about the West Coast premiere of the only work in British history to win all of the U.K.’s Olivier Awards for best musical? Nary a line of the sprawling show can be quoted, so filled are they with expletives.
Nor will anything said have an effect on the eager crowd of people of all ages who will flock to the seedy Victoria Theatre, neighboring the even seedier 16th Street BART plaza, in hopes of yelling and laughing their insides out at Ray of Light Theatre’s brazen production of “Jerry Springer the Opera.”
Certainly the first half of the show fulfills expectations. The situations are echt (or should I say “ugh”) Springer.
Affairs with prostitutes, mirroring in some ways the affair that cost Jerry the mayorship of Cincinnati; secret homosexual liaisons; obsessive role playing of the most sordid sort; a pole dancer in desperate need of Weight Watchers; an audience that cheers, boos and participates in the action; and enough tongue-lashing, name-calling, and front- and back-biting profanity to lead someone to clutch their Bible.
All that’s left, you may think, is an episode in which God and the Devil duke it out. Guess what? That’s the second act. A very long second act.
Hardly saved by Jerry’s heartburn-inducing moralizing in the end, the pact between Jerry and the Devil reflects the pact viewers make each time they watch the show. (My mother, who used to scream at soap opera characters to not take it lying down, would be gratified to know that they’re now slinging it standing up.)
All this is done in song. Some of it is quasi-Mozartian and Handelian; the rest is London-style Broadway. Either way, it’s all cliches.
The audience screams with delight any time a soprano dares move far above the standard octave and whatever range pop singers can manage.
The people seated closer to the stage — those most affected by one of the most ear-splitting, distorted, monochromatic abominations of a sound system one might ever be cursed to endure — will be shoving whatever they can find into the ears to safeguard their hearing, while the people onstage are shoving whatever they can find into … we’ll stop there.
Patrick Michael Dukeman gives an award-deserving performance, nailing Jerry’s every accent, expression and move.
Space doesn’t allow the praise due all the other performers, who sing and dance their heartless hearts out. Director M. Graham Smith, artistic director Shane Ray and music director Ben Prince do superb work.
The longest and most ambitious show Ray of Light Theatre has ever mounted will undoubtedly be a hit — if they survive the lawsuits for smashed eardrums. As for ruffled sensibilities, fuggedaboutit.
Jerry Springer the Opera
Presented by Ray of Light Theatre
Where: Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; closes Oct. 16
Tickets: $25 to $36