Jerry Springer: The Opera

Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester; Tuesday 13th August, 2019


It ain’t easy being me:

billions of voices,

making all the wrong choices;

then turning around and blaming me.


Nearly three decades have passed since The Jerry Springer Show burst off American cable channels and became a massive and instant TV hit across the world. The simple formula for creating entertainment out of ordinary people airing their dirty laundry in public still holds an elusive X factor that imitators have never quite matched.

Something about Jerry Springer made him the perfect host for a show so full of hostility. In amongst the violence of guests throwing sofas at each other on stage and the raucous studio audience demanding ever more fury, Jerry would often be the last hope for everyone’s sanity: the wise old man despairingly shaking his head and demanding that everyone just sit down and resolve things fairly and reasonably.

Jerry Springer: The Opera first appeared a decade after the TV show and it very much feeds off the original programme’s ability to deliver illicit entertainment through exploitation of what should otherwise be the private suffering of others. 

The cast is huge: in the early stages 22 performers are up on their feet on stage, which definitely was not big enough to handle them all. But it began to make sense when they took their seats: these performers were playing the role of Jerry’s studio audience, fully incorporated into the actual audience in attendance for the musical.

These front two rows were as obnoxious as you might expect a Jerry Springer audience to be: very loud, very wild, casually scoffing their crisps, leering and jeering at the warm-up man – theatre etiquette’s worst nightmare. 

The opening scenes became an elongated act of hero-worship and it was impossible to not get drawn in by the hype. Eventually the man himself appeared and promptly gave the audience (both parts of them) what they really wanted: a classic episode of his famous show.

“Bring on the losers!!!” was the shout from the front rows. And Jerry delivered exactly that: a shocking mix of characters and situations, secrets and lies, confrontations and violent arguments.

Jerry Springer: The Opera is delivered almost entirely in musical form: the typically happy, jolly rhythms and melodies of conventional musical theatre – yet punctuated by the most foul and offensive lyrics that you couldn’t even imagine if you tried.



The show is, therefore, effectively an extravagant dramatisation of what are already outrageous underlying personal dramas. It’s the classic formula of He Said, She Said until nobody can remember what the question is anymore. We really shouldn’t be watching this, but we certainly can’t look away from it.

At one point Jerry points out that anyone can take the moral high ground; but his is a talk show that comfortably and steadily occupies the moral low ground. Jerry Springer: The Opera does the same, unashamedly scraping the depths of entertainment morality but doing so in a very impressive and laudible manner.

Two strong moods seem to come out of this performance: one is the entertainment lust that the original Jerry Springer Show oozed, the need for fresh meat that we can all be involved in killing, the vicious hunger to look down our noses at other people for gratuitous entertainment; but that is soon followed by a second, more sombre mood, namely a guilty and uncomfortable fidgeting, an uneasy contemplation of what we ourselves have become by watching such a spectacle, of not considering what it must feel like for Jerry’s guests.

The shocking scenes are quite shocking for theatre’s standards, but they’re in the context of the Jerry Springer phenomenon, hence they become charmingly amusing rather than shocking. It’s quite easy to see why the original musical caused so much offence nearly two decades ago, but in the internet age where every human being and their problems are exposed to every other human being, the shock element feels almost familiar and thus less potent in its ability to truly shock.

The biggest achievement of this show feels as if it is the concept of the audience within an audience – the front rows of Jerry’s audience may have been behaving badly but then we were literally all in it, we all wanted the same entertainment, they just happened to be a bit louder about it. And so just as Jerry had to eventually confront the reality of what he had done and what he’d become, so did we.

In Jerry Springer: The Opera, the production team at Northern Ricochet have created a joyous, sing-along, happy clappy, arms in the air kind of show that fans of the original TV program will love and adore. The energy coming from the performing cast is extraordinary and makes for a fantastic entertainment spectacle – simultaneously a tribute and a rebuttal of an entertainment concept that once ruled the TV world not so long ago.

Photography: Anthony Robling



Performance aspect Comments Score
Visual pleasure Looked a little bit cramped on stage and that seemed to limit the staging and set, almost felt as if the cast were slightly restricted by the lack of space to move and flow more easily. Otherwise it is an excellent visual spectacle with ingenious and hilarious use of props and costumes. 3
Auditory pleasure Stunningly good piece of musical composition, in a show that is entirely delivered through song, other than by the main character who seems to be the only one who speaks his lines. 5
Architecture & Theme Incredibly good piece of writing, though the second half felt a little laboured and seemed to elongate the show unnecessarily. Generated both of the main moods of the original TV show: the lust for entertainment at the expense of others, and then the guilt of laughing at them. 4
Artistic delivery Outstanding performances from what was a huge cast, every word was sung perfectly and clearly which is unusual for a musical. Every individual seemed to deliver a perfect performance in terms of timing and vocal output, the net result was stunning. 5
Overall impact An excellent production that provides two hours of non-stop entertainment in high gear. Probably will still cause offence but it feels like a known quantity, hence it can do less harm. 4
Final Score: 4.2


Scoring Scheme

0 Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse
1 Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor
2 Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special
3 Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way
4 Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive
5 Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.

The Community Centre

The King’s Arms, Salford; Thursday 8th August, 2019


Welcome to the community centre, a very Mancunian community centre: this is the gentle, beating heart that quietly ticks away; the lifeblood that unites an extravagant community of assorted characters.

Written by soap star and comedienne Nicola Gardner, The Community Centre depicts a day in the life of a fictional hub where visitors can come to simply pass the time away, and it appears that the under-worked staff can do the same too. Read More »


HOME Theatre, Manchester; Tuesday 9th July, 2019


The day has not yet begun, but she’s going for a swim. She will swim in the cold waters of the lake, it will help her to heal, maybe it will also help her to forget.

Theatre maker Liz Richardson has been on secret swimming trips, but not just to the local pool: these are wild swimming adventures, out in the open, exposed to the elements. A new hobby it seems, though one which, below the surface, appears to be as deep and mysterious as the open waters in which she’s swimming.Read More »


Twenty Twenty Two, Manchester; Tuesday 30th July, 2019

Delivered in the final days of the 2019 Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, Bypass by Manchester-based Hung Theatre is effectively a mini festival within a festival being comprised of eight, short theatrical compositions connected by a common theme. 

The show delivers outputs from writers – mostly graduates of the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Young Company – who were simply given the title, Bypass, and then proverbially poked with the following stick: 

“The home you were raised in is being concreted over, any parting words?”

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There Is A Light That Never Goes Out: Scenes From The Luddite Rebellion

Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester; Monday 29th July, 2019


On August 16th, 2019, the city of Manchester will be marking the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre – a defining moment in British political history in which tens of thousands of civilian protestors seeking parliamentary reform were viciously attacked by their own armed forces.

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out picks up the story of simmering discontent and insurrection some seven years earlier, twelve miles away in the small town of Westhoughton at the foot of Winter Hill just outside Bolton.Read More »

The Book Of Now

Hope Aria Academy, Manchester; Saturday 27th July, 2019


It’s small and blue, bigger than a matchbox, but smaller than a letter box. 

This is The Box.  

It looks as if it could contain a ring. Or perhaps a badge, maybe a pendant? You could probably get a small necklace or a bracelet in there. Maybe it’s not jewellery at all, there could be a pair of cufflinks in there, or maybe something boring like earplugs?

This is The Box, and we need to proverbially think outside of the box to figure out what’s actually in it.Read More »

Mémoires d’un Amnésique

The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester; Saturday 27th July, 2019


Dear Sir,

Monsieur Fuckface.

I shit on you with all my might.


French composer Erik Satie didn’t get on well with critics.

Apparently they just didn’t get his vision, so nearly a century after his death Amusia Productions have created the mysterious Mémoires d’un Amnésique – a deeply moving theatrical insight into the mind that composed some of the musical world’s most infamous piano pieces.Read More »