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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, Chicago

By Robert Cashill

  Jerry and Satan

The Second City is the first in the nation to host the trash-singing London hit Jerry Springer-The Opera, a big production, with a 29-member cast, that is all but overflowing this small but adventuresome venue on hip Belmont Avenue. The theater is not all that far from where the real Springer hosts his daily chorus line of toothless trailer trawlers and fiercely fat family fighters, and has a set (augmented with clever video design) that could pass for the actual thing. Indeed, the first act, in which the unflappably aloof host (played with wry detachment by Brian Simmons) gets into hot water with a more combative-than-usual parade of adulterers, "chicks with dicks," and poopy-pantsed diaper fetishists, could pass for a typical hour of airtime. If it weren't, that is, for the Greek chorus of audience members egging on the shenanigans, or the soulful warbling of the guests, whose deepest desire (beyond specific, special pleading needs, expressed in songs like "Mamma Gimme Smack on the Asshole") is for transcendent "Jerry Springer moments"-"Dip me in chocolate/throw me to the lesbians," is their urgent refrain.

Once the on-air demolition derby is concluded, with Jerry shot and sent hell-ward, composer Richard Thomas and librettist Stewart Lee set their sights on a different target. Organized religion takes its lumps as an aggrieved Satan forces Springer, who says he "doesn't do conflict resolution," to stage a very special episode, where Jesus, Mary, and Adam and Eve (played by the first act's unhinged guests) will apologize for all the wrongs done him. The eyebrow-raising satire, staged within hailing distance of America's heartland, is lowdown, dirty-and, with David Zak's surefooted direction and Brenda Didier's inventive choreography setting the pace, often immensely funny. The highs and lows of the marvelous, heavenly and hellish score are superbly rendered on Jerry Springer's much-anticipated trans-Atlantic crossing, and Bailiwick gets bragging rights for having gotten there first. Surely this show, which to judge from the night I attended is not having any trouble finding the younger theatergoing audience producers say they crave, will find its way to New York, which could use a musical that quite literally wrestles with redemption, reconciliation, and "three-nippled cousin fuckers."


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