Catholic group protests 'Jerry Springer: The Opera' in Orange County
"Jerry Springer: The Opera," the tongue-in-cheek musical comedy about the notorious talk-show host, has been turning heads and ruffling feathers ever since it was first produced in London in 2003. In anticipation of the show's belated Southern California debut in July, some Catholics are protesting what they regard as a blasphemous stage production that disrespects God and the Catholic faith.
The musical, written by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee, is scheduled to begin performances July 9 at the small Chance Theater in Anaheim. The show follows a fictionalized Springer as he interviews an array of grotesque guests on his TV show. After he's accidentally shot, Springer travels through the afterlife, where he meets a variety of religious figures including Satan, Jesus and God.
A national group called the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property has launched an email campaign against the production in Orange County, encouraging people to send emails to the theater. On its website, the group objects to the musical's "profanity, nudity and blasphemous content." It also objects to the show's description of Jesus as "the hypocrite son of the fascist tyrant on high," as well as its treatment of the crucifixion and the Eucharist.
The Chance Theater said it has so far received more than 1,500 emails protesting the musical production. Oanh Nguyen, the Chance's artistic director, said that the company was expecting to see some form of protest. "I don't really think the musical is in any way blasphemous," he said. "It's not a commentary on religion at all.... It's much more a commentary on Americans and American television."
Nguyen said that most of the protest emails have come in the last four days. Most of the emails seem to have been spurred by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property. (The religious group runs the site America Needs Fatima.)
"Jerry Springer" has fomented protest in productions around the world. The Catholic League condemned the musical when it was produced at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2008. The BBC received a barrage of emails and phone calls when it aired the show in 2005.
-- David Ng
Photo: Jerry Springer. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times