“The Jerry Springer Show” was basically a salacious soap opera without the soap. It was dramatically dirty in captivating ways and way too theatrical not to imitate onstage. And since a soap-free soap opera is really just an opera, it’s only logical to add music, singing, and stylized haranguing to “Jerry Springer.”
Written by Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, “Jerry Springer: The Opera” debuted at London’s National Theater in 2003, per The New York Times, and earned Britain’s Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The Guardian provided a scintillating glimpse: “The show contained more than 200 swear words and depicted God, Jesus Christ, Mary, Adam and Eve, and Satan as warring guests on a special edition of the Jerry Springer show set in hell.” Critics adored it. Christians, by contrast, abhorred it.
In 2005, a Christian group unsuccessfully sued BBC head Mark Thompson for blasphemy after he allowed the show to air on television. Various American Christians also got cross. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, organizations like America Needs Fatima and the Catholic League condemned the show. The uproar upended plans for a Broadway run, which was delayed for a decade.
Jerry Springer had a more mixed reaction, telling The AV Club that the musical was well done but uncomfortable to sit through. It wasn’t the irreligious snark or tap-dancing Klansmen that bothered him. Rather, it was seeing himself portrayed onstage while others watched.