Sunday, May 17, 2009

At The Opera

Gerry Springer The Opera.

I assure you, had this not been an event of the Emmanuel Center I would never even have considered attending. I went out of loyalty to the organization, and if I had any curiosity it was only to discover what in fact Rev. Werntz and Rabbi Berman could possibly do with this in their "Talk Back" session afterwards. We hadn't left "Blackbird" with a very high opinion, Dr. Funk decided to sit this one out, and I left home out of a sense of duty.

I was surprised to find the house packed, and even more to find myself in constant hysterics from the first number to the end of the show. The music is brilliant and the staging is brilliant and the actors are brilliant, and there would have been a long standing ovation except that the audience was so exhausted by laughing that at the end we could hardly clap.

Gerry, in the first act is in tension with his "inner Valkyrie" (she appears in the upper corner of the set to taunt him in her helmet and shield.) This is appropriate because the music is a very imaginative pastiche of Wagner- along with jazz, Busby Berkeley, Jerome Kern, Sondheim, and I think Papa Haydn was stirring the pot at one point but it gets hard to sort out about midway in the first act. 

Amongst the challenging questions asked by "Gerry Springer, The Opera" are these. Can two jealous women fighting over a man be a valid premise for a soprano duet? Obviously, yes, even if they are redneck sluts fighting over a Ku Klux Klan member- I should have included Leonard Bernstein in the list above. Can a Wagnerian chorus be built on the text "we eat, excrete, and watch TV?" again, yes, but more surprising. Most surprising indeed is that "Gerry Springer The Opera" pulled this sort of thing off with great craftsmanship. 

And then Mozart- Gerry, like Don Juan, takes a trip with Satan to warmer climes- and decides he'd rather stay there "I'm less confused here" and bring a balance of sorts between Satan and Jesus, and the God "it's not easy being me" and the inner valkyrie is reconstituted as St. Michael.- we even have Milton poking around here. The show is a tour de force of "Reducio ad absurdem" and I recommend it heartily.

You can, by the way, bring your pretensions, they will probably survive, not quite intact but perhaps a little better for the workout!


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