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“Love is great for us, but we don’t always love who is great for us.” (JS) 3Below Playhouse in San Jose Ca - opens the gates to Springer Tabloid TVs one-note joke.

By Vince Mediaa 

JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA' premiered in London in 2003 and won the Olivier Award for best musical, has arrived in the Bay Area in a full-fledged hilarious production. The Opera is now on stage at 3Below Theaters in San Jose and is produced by the Guggenheim family: Directed by Scott Guggenheim with musical direction by Stephen Guggenheim, and choreography by Shannon Guggenheim. Orchestrations and music director Thomas Tomasello, production design by Jon Gourdine and stage managed by Jackson Davis. This production is rarely staged for the obvious reasons that the book is very blue and x rated.  The romp of an opera runs through March 17th written by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee. Both British composers and lyricists with a comedy background "I start with a song about love; the musical needs to deal with this at some point. All musicals deal with love at some point" says Lee. 

Based on the melodramatic tabloid talk show THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW, THE OPERA follows an America’s talk show host as he deals with one of the worst days with his guests. From tacky lovers to a pregnant pole dancing stripper, every eccentric guest on Jerry’s show all want their 15 minutes of fame. But when the ultimate battle of good vs evil turns into a battle between god vs the devil, it becomes clear that nothing is off-limits in the Springer melodramatic world. Tabloid TV as an opera works, for a bit before becoming a one-note bad joke.

The show opens with a set of rules including no throwing things at the cast and no one is allowed on stage to throw a punch. The opening number “Ladies and Gentlemen” features Stephen Guggenheim the "warm up guy" who is also the music director; he has an impressive voice as he leads the charismatic cast in the opening numbers. The standout Ric Iverson plays Jerry, this is the only actor who is not in opera form. The rest of the company all have compelling voices and shine as some of the offbeat characters. Creating the experience of watching this television show, two commercial breaks are acted out similar to SNL sketches. Featuring absurdly named drugs and products.  Act two dives into hell by sending Springer to the dark side. Their he hosts a special “conflict resolution” edition of his show with Satan, Jesus, Adam and Eve, Mary, and God as guests in a scene that has a muddled resolution.

Iverson is best at his detached disposition as Springer in a surprising solid characterization that avoids a caricature. Writer Richard Thomas fills the stage with characters and clowns and very blue topics. Including actor Jared Lee who plays a man with a diaper fetish who actually defecates on stage while singing “Diaper Man” with the company. Similar to Try Parker's Book of Mormon with all the bizarreness and satan power JERRY SPRINGER can be funny, gross, camp, racist and make you laugh. The number “Talk to the Hand” becomes a common catch phrase in the two hour opera. The Jerry set is designed by Jon Gouroin and extends into the audience, with arches for a second level that includes a striper pole. The lighting by Jon Gourdine has that TV studio feel and complements Richard Sanchez and Se Copperman’s costume designs. The colorful cast features sequin gowns to farmer overalls, and over the top Satan and God vs the classic diaper man. Stage managers Jackson Davis and Shannon Guggenheim work with a 12 member busy cast swarming to costume changes and audience entrances. 

The talented company also includes the superb Kista Wigla as Peaches/Baby Jane and local favorite Lynda DiVito as pregnant stripper Shawntel. DiVito with her flawless voice sings “I Just Want to Dance” and proves she is one of the many accomplished singers in this cast. Every cast member plays others roles including the remarkable B Noel Thomas as Zandra and a number of other roles. The sassy Jesse Merlin appears as Tremont and Angle the drag queen. The accomplished Fred Isozaki as Jerry’s head of security Steve dominated the TV setting, always directing the fighting and rumbles on stage. Irene and Mary are played by the superb Nina Edwards and the priceless Lori Schulman as the unstable Andrea. Schulman’s solo “I Wanna Sing Something Beautiful” brings the Andrea guest segment the solid topic in the tabloid show. Chucky who is also featured in the poledance number is played by the clever Mark P. Robinson. Finally God is played by the marvelous Joseph Meyers who sings “It Ain’t Easy Being Me” alongside Guggenheim as Satan.

The musical numbers range from soaring arias to pop opera tunes, with impressive range and silly passion. The lines and book are very dated and blue, such as “chick with a dick”, does not sit well with our LGBTQ community. The march with Ku Klux Klan members run into the audience to perform a song-and-dance that takes on an undertone at a time when white supremacists have so recently been marching on the streets and have re-emerged during the Trump years. 

The tone moves into a period of political unrest, the satire feels prescient, the scene in which the warm-up man tells Jerry “You could run for Senate or even President” it stands out as reality horribly catches up with satire. JERRY SPRINGER THE OPERA can feel more relevant today, yet the scary subtest of bad behavior and wild outcomes will offset the possibility of four more years of Trump and his behavior. Next up at 3Below is the new musical THE PROM opens April 25th. But in the meantime check out this rare opera - I don’t expect it to be on other Bay Area stages.

"Till next time, take care of yourselves and each other," Jerry Springer 

Guggenheim Entertainment, Inc. at 3Below Theaters Presents

The South Bay Premiere of


Book and music by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee

Produced and Directed by Scott Evan Guggenheim,

Musical direction by Stephen Guggenheim,

Choreography by Shannon Guggenheim,

Orchestrations by Thomas Tomasello,

Executive Producers Karen and Allen Guggenheim 


3Below Playhouse  288 S Second St, San Jose, CA 95113

Tickets 408-404-7711

Photo Credit: Dave Lepori Photography


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