Jerry Springer the Opera

LEO PARKER-REES conducts a paternity test and finds that this show truly is the daddy.

ADC christian voice Comedy jerry springer leo parker-rees mainshow Max Upton Musical Stewart Lee techie

ADC, 8th – 12th, 7.45pm, £6 – £12

Directed by Oskar McCarthy


How can a show, opening amid so much hype, live up to expectations? What can cast and crew do to deserve a fully-booked ADC? The answer to both of these questions will be obvious to anyone lucky enough to have got tickets to the most exciting, ambitious, professional show Cambridge has seen in a long time.

There were problems, of course there were. Some pyrotechnics and microphones failed and, as is so often the case with live music, the drums occasionally drowned out the singing. The thing is, anyone who has seen the show will know that pointing these things out is petty nit-picking, and will resent me for mentioning them. They didn’t matter. Stop going on about them. Get to the good bits.

Easier said than done, you bossy hypothesis. It may be a cliche of an excuse, but I don’t know where to begin. The universally polished performances did the writing justice, and the techies really outdid themselves, accomplishing more than enough to make you forget the A in ADC. Usually in that theatre I resent the excessive tech – constant lighting changes that seem more a display of electric-circuitry-prowess than aesthetic decisions – but for this show it was never incongruous, and the crew really deserve credit for a job well done.

Photographs by Siana Bangura

The script is a good one. With an author like Stewart Lee involved, something pretty special was inevitable; he stands head and shoulders above any other comedian, as evidenced by the increasing ‘borrowing’ of his style by his inferiors. Here, his intelligence as a comedian was clear. It starts with the Jerry Springer Show, presented in such a way as to call into question the morality behind the encouragement of such public confrontation. When Jerry gets shot and descends to hell, Christianity is given the Jerry Springer treatment, raising questions not just about the morality of the religion, but about morality itself.

The cast were all impressive. How can you have so many people on stage without a weak link? There was so much talent, between the singing and the tap-dancing, that it would be wrong to single anyone out. I’m still going to, though, and he didn’t even sing anything. Max Upton, the show’s Jerry Springer, was the highlight of the evening. From his perfect accent to his impeccable comic timing, Upton was consistent in his brilliance. Amid so many excellent singers, you need to be special to stand out, and in this show it’s very important that Jerry stands out. Upton was up to the task. That man can act.

I could go on singing the praises of everyone involved, but I think I’ve made myself clear by now. This is what theatre should be doing. Ambitious in the extreme, bewilderingly successful in its execution, it’s a show that everyone involved should be (must be) seriously proud of, and I doubt they’ll forget it in a hurry. I know I won’t. “Dip me in chocolate, throw me to the lesbians,” I didn’t want it to end.