Jerry Springer -- The Opera

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Jerry SPringer opera
CBS/AP

Distinguished names are well represented in London's theater district this fall: Oscar Wilde, Arthur Miller, Cole Porter, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Victor Hugo and Jerry Springer!?!?

It's "Jerry Springer," the opera.

The talk show host of trash, graced last week's premiere at the Cambridge Theater. He is the most unlikely opera hero since opera began centuries ago.

"I 'm honored to the point that I realize that I'm the only human being on the planet earth that's an opera," Springer says. "There have been others, but they're dead."

Who would of thought the "Jerry Springer Show "could be an opera. Creators Richard Thomas and Stuart Lee did, as CBS News Sunday Morning's Bill Geist found out.

"Richard looked at it and thought you've got these people in the middle telling their stories and you've got people around the edges shouting at them. That feels like opera, with principals and a chorus," Lee says. "Stupid things sung beautifully was obviously going to work."

Oddly enough, respected critics, such as The Guardian's Michael Billington, agrees.

'The 'Jerry Springer Show' is a mix of solo arias and ensembles, so it has all the ingredients of a Verdi or Puccini opera," he says.

Springer thinks his show could not be considered exactly highbrow.

"Let's be honest," he says. "I've always said it's the stupidest show on television."

But, Springer says he could kick himself for not conceiving of the idea for an opera based on his show. He explains opera has many of the same themes as his show: chaos, mock tragedy, gender misidentification, the chorus, absurdity and farce.

"Those are all the elements of our show -- without the band," Springer says.

But what do you do about the television show's vulgarity and profanity? It could be worse, which is exactly what the show's makers decided to do. They made it worse.

"Jerry Springer the Opera" is kind of a shock, all the way around. It is even shocking to Springer himself, who has no ties to the production.

"I was surprised," he says. "My mother's passed away, but finally I could say to heaven, 'Hey, I got culture mom. I'm an opera.'"

Shocking too, because of its unlikely creators, Richard Thomas, a jingle writer, and Stuart Lee, a former stand up comedian, didn't have the pedigree to create an opera.

"I'd never seen an opera [at that point three years ago] and I'd never seen any musical theater," says Lee. "[Thomas] asked me to help out on the words for this. I ended up directing it because there wasn't anyone else around."

It was certainly a shock when it ran earlier this year at the Royal National Theater.

"I was a little bit shocked with it," says Lee. "Because it's traditionally where highbrow works are performed."

Shockingly it became the hottest show in London.

Opera audiences flock to see trash-talking guests confessing their tawdry secrets for moments of fame.

In beautifully sung arias of F-words and choruses of crude, the first act has a "Jerry Springer Show" with three typical sets of guests. The topics range in topics from male cross-dressers to cheating spouses.

But, sometimes the singing is so beautiful, one sometimes forget the "Jerry Springer Show" is not a traditional musical.

Cast members admittedly weren't too sure about it either. David Bedella plays Springer's warm-up man and also Satan.

"My first thought was, 'Let's not get involved,'" says Bedella. "I heard that it was Jerry Springer, and you know, I keep telling people that was one of the things I was very proud to leave behind in my country."

Alison Jiear plays the aspiring pole dancer.

"The first thing I knew about the show was when I was sent the music," she says. "And I thought it was pretty rude. And I honestly didn't want to do it."

Jiear allowed her 7-year-old son to watch a small part of the opera.

"He said, 'I like your hair, you look really pretty,'" Jiear remembers. "And I said, 'Oh, thank you darling.' And he went, 'I'm not happy with the way you're behaving up there.'"

Michael Brandon plays Jerry Springer.

"I read it and I couldn't make heads or tails of it," he says. "It was like this thing is not going to go quietly. This is going to be some fantastic disaster of mega proportion … And if it worked, it was going to be unique and irresistible."

Critics found it all that and then some – they even said it was important.

"But what it did was to get a different audience into that theater," says critic Billington. "[It's] an audience of Jerry Springer converts. They were all shouting, 'Jerry, Jerry.'"

In the second act, Springer goes to hell -- some would say deservedly -- to host the ultimate show with big name guests such as God, Jesus and Satan. It is at that point in the opera audiences and critics try to draw a message from the mayhem.

"We hope people take away from this a kind of celebration of the diversity of the human condition," says creator Lee. "We also hope they realize that opera singers swearing is funny."

Critics likewise try to discern a message from the television show's immense popularity.
But some say there is no message, and that is the joke.

Still, at the end of every television show, Springer does have a final thought.

"Basically all of [Springer's] final thoughts boil down to him saying, 'Hey, why don't you just lighten up and get on with each other?'" laughs Lee.