Heathers (2015)

book, music, and lyrics by
Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy
based on the film by Daniel Waters
October 1-24, 2015
Marcelle Theater
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Veronica Sawyer – Anna Skidis
J.D. – Evan Fornachon
Heather Chandler – Sicily Mathenia
Heather Duke – Cameisha Cotton
Heather McNamara – Larissa White
Martha Dunnstock – Grace Seidel
Ram Sweeney – Omega Jones
Kurt Kelly – Clayton Humburg
Young Republicanette – Brenda Bass
Preppy Stud – Kevin Corpus
Hipster Dork – Colin Dowd
Beleaguered Geek – Alex Glow
Kurt’s Dad/Veronica’s Dad/Principal Gowan – Joel Hackbarth
Ms. Fleming/Veronica’s Mom – Lindsey Jones
Ram’s Dad/Big Bud Dean/Coach Ripper – Chris Kernan
Stoner Chick – Victoria Valentine

THE NEW LINE BAND
Conductor/Piano – Sue Goldford
Guitar – D. Mike Bauer
Bass – Andrew Gurney
Violin – Twinda Murry
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Reeds – Harrison Rich
Trumpet – Patrick Swan

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Directors – Scott Miller, Mike Dowdy
Directing Intern – Jeremy Hyatt
Music Director – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Choreographer – Robin Michelle Berger
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician – Gabe Taylor
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Benjamin Rosemann
Lighting Designer – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Artists – Kathleen Dwyer, Melanie Kozak, Gary Karasek, Kate Wilkerson
Box Office Manager – Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Videographer – Kyle Jeffery Studios
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
“Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy's witty, and at times beautiful, show goes deeper into the mindset of heartthrob killer J.D. than the film does. The original's dark and subversive edge is still present – hoo-boy, is it present – but there is also a tenderness that wasn't really possible in Reagan's America. In New Line Theatre's production (the show's regional premiere), directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy nurture that tenderness without shying away from the darkness. The result is a show that is sharp and unflinchingly honest in its depiction of high school killers, even with the remove afforded by satire. It is as entertaining as it is terrifying.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“Now you can see Heathers in all its pitch black glory with New Line Theatre's amazing production, which opens their 25th season. Not only is it a fantastic and edgy show, but it also marks their first presentation in their new venue, the Marcelle Theater (lovingly designed by Rob Lippert). This is a dazzling and intense show that features a smartly crafted book and score, courtesy of Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy, as well as an excellent cast and expert direction. This is beyond must-see entertainment. This is an accomplishment you absolutely have to check out. You'll be dazzled by its brilliance, and completely floored by the wonderful performances you'll be witness to.” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

“A racy rock score drives 120 mph into the dark, libidinous story with a narrative intelligence reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan on coke. This deeply disturbing story of bullying and the pressures of forced teen adulthood unfolds with truth and consequences, authentic sadness, and eventually, more hope than the movie was ever able to muster. . . This quirky, seductive rock operetta, with satiric teeth, tasteful tongue-and-cheek titillation and societal timeliness, is performed with musical intelligence and dramatic enthusiasm by a robust cast, many of whom seemed fresh and new to St. Louis.” – Chris Limber, Buzz On Stage

“It is an overwhelming experience—admirably put forth, but ruthlessly intense in the final twenty minutes or so. . . In the upside-down world of teenagers, where belonging is more important than almost anything else, the wicked girls' entrance is greeted with a heavenly choir of harmonies from the rest of the ensemble. Their overall musicianship, and the various forms of artistry that blossom throughout this Heathers, may be the greatest achievement of all. . . a rarely produced show that's challenging, lovingly produced and bitchy fun, as fans of New Line Theatre have come to expect.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“New Line Theatre kicks off its season, the first at their new home in the smartly renovated Marcelle Theater on the east end of Grand Center, with a bang. A little poison and a big bomb are also included in the dark comedy, but it's the heart, and a prescient message about teen isolation, mental health and violence, that may stay with audiences. . . The most surprising aspect of New Line Theatre's excellent production of Heathers may in fact be the insidious way the show cheerfully turns from dark humor to intense pathos – the story is affecting and the storytelling completely effective. The result is a spectacular production, with a breakout performance by Anna Skidis, that celebrates the company's 25th anniversary and new home.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“In New Line Theatre’s bold regional premiere, a fearless cast and crew is able to achieve a balance in tone that transcends vulgar lyrics and shock-value scenarios. . . co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy frame this jagged little pill in Reagan-Era Me Decade ephemera and infuse the characters with plenty of attitude. They understand that in order for the dark material to mean more than a typical coming-of-age flashback, the characters can’t be caricatures, and consciously steer away from camp. That gives the youngsters more emotional depth than initially drawn, resulting in dynamic performances and a show that doesn’t only entertain. The pair have harmoniously collaborated on a number of neglected musicals that needed New Line’s nurturing to thrive, and with their astonishing attention to detail, polish Heathers into a bright-colored gem. . . it’s indeed one of the standouts of the year.” – Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat

Heathers The Musical is an amazing way to kick off New Line Theatre’s 25th season. Once again, they’ve taken a diamond in the rough and polished it into a magnificent gem for the audience to behold. The show is packed with serious topics and thought provoking subject matter, but also manages to provide us with laughs and plenty of catchy tunes. The entire cast is overflowing with talent, ne’er a weak point to be found. This is one show that you do not want to miss while you have the chance.” – Kevin Brackett, ReviewSTL

“With sparkling performances by Anna Skidis and Evan Fornachon in the primary roles of Veronica and J.D., New Line’s Heathers continues the company’s rich history of bringing challenging musical theater to St. Louis audiences. . . Heathers is a good production of an offbeat little musical that typifies New Line Theatre’s strength: Offering a new look at established works or an introduction to little-seen gems that are revived with Miller’s innate insight.” – Mark Bretz Ladue News

“New Line Theatre kicks off its 25th anniversary in its new space at the Marcelle Theater with the premiere of the wickedly morbid and hysterical musical Heathers. Based on the 1989 cult film of the same name, this show has all the elements that theater-goers have come to expect from artistic director, Scott Miller: provocative themes, pathos, dynamic performances from its cast, and a cheeky sense of fun. . . Heathers is hysterically funny and outrageous and is a strong indicator that although the venue for New Line Theater has changed, its vision of entertaining and challenging audiences remains the same.” – Donald Miller, Alton Telegraph

“On Friday night, New Line Theatre celebrated its 25th anniversary in ideal fashion: It opened a smart new show, Heathers, in its sleek new theater, the Marcelle. . . Heathers – a hideous and hilarious musical inspired by the 1989 cult movie of the same name – continues New Line’s long look at kids in some kind of trouble: emotional, social, political, sexual. In shows such as Hair, Grease, bare, Passing Strange, Cry-Baby and Rent, New Line has explored musicals about teens and young adults trying to figure out how, or even why, to live.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“New Line’s anniversary kicks off with what they do best – providing hilarious, daring, sometimes unsettling, but always unflinching, insightful looks at the world we live in, and those on the fringes. Go see it.”—Andrea Torrence, St. Louis Theatre Snob

“Tightly directed by Miller and Mike Dowdy, and interlaced with choreographer Robin Michelle Berger's work, it fits together like Lycra. Scenic design by Rob Lippert and costumes from Sarah Porter make it feel pretty authentic. Very funny despite some of the subject matter, it's a great opening show, well crafted and well cast, for the brand-new Marcelle Theater.” – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

“It’s a dark, sometimes brutal show, but with a surprisingly hopeful ending, and it takes the high school movie genre and examines it in intriguing ways. It’s a spectacular production, highlighting the always excellent singing that New Line is known for, as well as some strong characterization and a great use of New Line’s new theatre space. Heathers the Musical is a hit.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

“If Heathers makes you squirm a little, that’s good – it means they’re doing it right. . . Yes, Heathers – movie and musical alike – are shocking. They’re also cautionary tales about conformity, and morality plays about doing the right thing even if it makes you less popular. . . In many ways Heathers is more relevant now than it was in the late 80s.” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

Heathers is quite a feather is New Line’s cap.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
Heathers is about selfishness, and the moral and emotional damage that come from it, maybe the inevitable result of the 1980s Me-First Reagan Revolution, a reaction to the turmoil and cultural upheaval of the 1960s and 70s. If the hippies believed in community, then community must be suspect. If the hippies condemned greed, then greed must be good.

Heathers is about the breakdown of institutions in 1980s America – the family, the community, the government, the educational system – as Reagan convinced many Americans to distrust our institutions, as he successfully turned government into a dirty word. Americans had always believed that We the People are the government, but Reagan changed that, portraying our system of government – our collective act of democratic self-governance – as a massive, scary giant who’s out to get us, in the process all but severing the sacred connection between The People are their government.

With no trust in our government, no trust in community, and a growing suspicion of The Other, Reagan turned individualism into a cult and delegitimized the responsibility to community that had always been such a cornerstone of American life. The myth of “rugged individualism” that played such a role in the settling of our continent was revived and deified, partly in response to the communalism of the 60s and the universal distrust Reagan nurtured in his followers.

Can we blame the kids in Heathers for being self-centered? Look at the world surrounding them, clueless teachers, ineffectual and/or absent parents, no role models, no responsibility to others, no empathy. This is the world J.D. wants to destroy, a cold, callous, selfish time and place that could produce the Heathers.

Most teen comedies are about conforming. If the lead character is unable to conform, they have to be “removed” from the community. But in Grease, Cry-Baby, and Heathers, it works in the opposite direction. In these stories, the protagonist goes from insider to outsider; but also at the same time, from outsider to insider, because both Grease and Cry-Baby present two conflicting communities. In Heathers, Veronica goes from outsider to insider, and then back to outsider again. Because in the world of Westerberg High, it turns out that being an outsider is way better than being an insider.

In the conforming 80s, much of our storytelling was about all this – to conform or not to conform – and after the turmoil of the 60s and 70s, many people were choosing conformity. Heathers is a cautionary tale about the dark side of “fitting in,” arguing that “fitting in” is an inherently selfish act. Veronica goes from being empathetic (which is the whole point of the first part of the opening number, “Beautiful”) to being callous and selfish, then finally back to empathetic again.

Today, as many in our culture continue to demonize The Other, Heathers is a blunt reminder to take care how we treat those Others…

The Threepenny Opera (2015)

music by Kurt Weill
book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht
American adaptation by Marc Blitzstein
May 28-June 20, 2015
Washington University South Campus Theatre
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Capt. Macheath – Todd Schaefer
Mr. J.J. Peachum – Zachary Allen Farmer
Mrs. Peachum – Sarah Porter
Polly Peachum – Cherlynn Alvarez
Tiger Brown – Christopher “Zany” Clark
Lucy Brown – Christina Rios
Jenny Diver – Nikki Glenn
Reverend Kimball / Warden Smith – Reynaldo Arceno
Readymoney Matt – Brian Claussen
Crookfinger Jake – Kent Coffel
Charles Filch – Jeremy Hyatt
Walt Dreary – Todd Micali
Molly – Kimi Short
Betty – Margeau Steinau
Bob the Saw – Luke Steingruby
Dolly – Larissa White

THE NEW LINE BAND
Piano/Conductor – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Trombone – Tom Hanson
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Guitar – Adam Rugo
Trumpet – Patrick Swan
Reed I – Marc Strathman
Reed II – Rebecca Parisi

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Director – Scott Miller
Directing Intern – Alex Glow
Music Director – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician – Kristina Cirone
Scenic Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Benjamin Rosemann
Lighting Designer – Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master – Kimi Short
Scenic Artists – Kate Wilkerson, Melanie Kozak, Patrick Donnigan, Gary Karasek, Sharon Russell
Box Office Manager – Svetlana Slizskaya
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Videographer – Kyle Jeffery Studios
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
“New Line Theatre presents the show it was created to perform. . . The Threepenny Opera is the oldest show New Line Theatre has ever staged. It might also be the hottest, the sharpest and the best. The moment music director Jeffrey Carter and his sly ensemble begin the overture, a shudder of pleasure rips through the theater. Whether or not you know what’s coming, the music seems to announce, this is going to be an evening to remember. Director Scott Miller founded New Line 24 years ago precisely to do shows like this, shows that squeeze modernity in a ruthless musical vise. Though it’s set in Victorian London and debuted in Weimar Berlin, The Threepenny Opera feels as raw as your butcher’s best – or as an open wound. It’s also very funny.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"For the next three weeks you have a choice in how you stay informed about current events: You can either suffer through another local newscast as the tone whiplashes between banal levity and grim images of oppression, crime and human misery -- or you can soak up the horrible truth at New Line Theatre's near-perfect production of The Threepenny Opera." – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“It very well could be some awful commentary on recent news events that led to riots in St. Louis and New York and Baltimore. But it's also a Threepenny that doesn't seem to give a pfennig or a fig what you think of it. And, you have to admit, that's pretty Brechtian right there. This latest New Line musical is faithful to the original, in that it's very much a haughty celebration of the lowly, who've been failed by life again and again. Then, by adding a snarky, playful vision, the production becomes more like a gleeful victory lap for cause of social liberalism – a modern American show in venerable trappings, that shouts, 'I told you so' to all those who refuse to acknowledge the shoddiness of 150 years of do-it-yourself Reconstruction in the U.S. It's not a hopeless modern black America, of course – but the stage is populated by the utterly bereft (the denizens of London dockyards) who live by their own rules, and avoid the law at all costs. From a director who usually looks backward in time for context, and also revels in the shocking, we now get the biggest shock of all: that this 1928 show, one of the highlights of the German Weimar period, seems to have snapped out of hopelessness and morphed into the first rebellious musical of the 'post-Ferguson' era.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“New Line Theatre gives us this stage noir classic with all its wickedness intact. It's a pitch-black masterpiece that sucks you in with its nightmarish charms. This is the Marc Bliztstein translation, and I only mention that because there have been numerous attempts at re-imagining the work over the years. New Line Theatre gives us the Brecht/Weill collaboration I've imagined in my mind after only hearing select musical pieces, and watching a fuzzy copy of G.W. Pabst's 1931 film. This is true art, and a show that you absolutely need to see! . . . New Line Theatre has put together a compelling and completely engaging production of The Threepenny Opera. So few have seen in all its dingy glory, and this is your chance to do so.” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

“The granddaddy of dark, decadent musicals, The Threepenny Opera still packs a punch with its biting social commentary that has remained relevant through the ages. The current production being staged by New Line Theatre is fresh, vital and deliciously subversive, underscoring author Bertolt Brecht’s sly observations that crime does indeed pay, whether for a rogue like Macheath or for the pillars of a society that diminishes the humanity of the less fortunate. . . Director Scott Miller’s two-act presentation has a spring in its seditious step that keeps this interpretation amusing and entertaining throughout. The look of the show, with wildly eccentric characters that populate the fringes of the stage, gives it a humorously decadent texture that permeates the performances and accentuates the wry commentary in Brecht’s script.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“A wicked good time . . . Director Scott Miller clearly understands the social commentary, wickedly dry humor, and musical intricacies of the show. His guidance and insight clearly benefit the production, as does his ability to assemble a cast capable of handling the themes and complexity with the appropriate touch.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“The best actors in St. Louis, and a top notch band. . . The show was written nearly a century ago, and it may never be more relevant than it is right now. The world's in chaos and it's our fault. Maybe we're all Mack the Knife! The show was great, well acted and sung . . . So if you're looking for a fun yet challenging show, check out New Line's Threepenny Opera. It might just change how you look at life!” – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

“The appeal of the piece is its ability to offer a blistering commentary on the evils of unbridled capitalism while retaining a strong sense of humor about itself. While it’s never preachy, the message here is clear – when options are severely limited, the poor and powerless often turn to less than admirable methods to survive. It’s no coincidence that one of the few remotely sympathetic characters is a prostitute who betrays Macheath. The three-act show moves along fairly briskly, in large part due to its talented cast and tight direction. If you seek an evening of dark but entertaining musical theater, this is the show for you.” – Donald Miller, The Telegraph

“Standing on its own, the New Line production flavors The Threepenny Opera with broad comedy and wields its pointed barbs very sharply. . . New Line is challenging us to get up, go out, and do something about the sorry state we see.” – Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News Democrat

“A fine cast all around. . . a 7-piece house band handles the score with √©lan,. . . Scott Miller's done a good job directing it, and given his love for Stephen Sondheim, perhaps the Sweeney Todd inference isn't accidental. A worthwhile evening.” – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

The Threepenny Opera is a contradiction in several ways. It’s simultaneously comedic and bleak, energetic and gloomy. It’s a story without any real heroes, but where some villains are more villainous than others. It’s a classic that I’d never seen before, and New Line’s latest production has proven to be a memorable introduction. . . New Line’s production brings the show to the St. Louis audience in a vivid and highly accessible way.” – Michelle Kenyon, Snoop’s Theatre Thoughts

“You'll find much to enjoy in New Line's Threepenny Opera.” – Bob Wilcox, KDHX-TV

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
Despite what many people think, audiences do not want escape. More than anything, audiences want truth. They find human connection in that truth.

Escape is disconnection. That’s not what audiences want. That’s not what Threepenny’s bookwriter and lyricist Bertolt Brecht wanted. And it’s not what New Line does.

With most shows – and in particular, most musicals – the idea is to get the audience on the hero’s side, to get them to empathize with the protagonist(s), so that they are emotionally invested in the resolution of the central conflict. But Brecht very intentionally and aggressively steps away from that basic premise of storytelling.

He doesn’t just step away from it. He wrestles it to the ground, takes a shit on it, runs over it with his car, douses it in gasoline, and sets it on fire.

No, we’re putting on a horror show.

In Brecht’s theatre, the idea is to get the audience to recognize a great social truth or problem, and to understand its effects on their lives. Threepenny’s central argument is that it’s not possible to be a moral or decent person, and also survive, in modern capitalism. And let’s be honest, for many people in America today, that is true, or at least nearly true.

In other words, like its descendants, Bat Boy, Chicago, Cabaret, and Urinetown, Threepenny’s agenda is to present a sociological (comic) horror story. It’s Frankenstein, but we are the mad scientist. Instead of zombies robbed of their humanity, these monsters are just regular people, just like you and me, robbed of their humanity. They’re not transformed into monsters by a supervillain or a radioactive spider, but by us, by the society that we are part of.

We are to blame, Brecht is saying.

What makes the show most unsettling is that morality is not just subverted here; it is absent. But Brecht and composer Kurt Weill are not asking you to approve; they are asking you to understand. They’re not offering up an excuse; just an explanation. Brecht has created a reverse morality tale, a stark, cautionary fable, but he is serious about his comedy, and he’s arguably right. It’s not a crazy idea that a broken society creates broken people – that’s the central theme of our last two shows, Bonnie & Clyde and Jerry Springer the Opera.

Brecht died in the 1950s but he’s still talking to us. He’s telling us that there is a price to pay for amoral, unfettered capitalism, for wild income inequality, and for an apathetic electorate. Brecht and Elizabeth Warren. He’s telling us that if we don’t want our world to look like Threepenny, we have to act, we have to take power, we have to use our Democracy as it was intended, to work the will of all the people, not just the will of Tiger Brown, the Peachums, and their 2015 counterparts...

Which is why the revivals of Threepenny keep coming. When Mack sings, “So listen closely to Mack the Knife,” he means it.

And we’d better hear him.

Jerry Springer the Opera (2015)

music by Richard Thomas
book and lyrics by Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas
March 5-28, 2015
Washington University South Campus Theatre
Show Webpage
Production Photos

THE CAST
Jerry Springer – Keith Thompson
Warm-Up Man/Satan – Matt Pentecost
Steve – Matt Hill
Dwight/God – Zachary Allen Farmer
Chucky/Adam – Ryan Foizey
Montel/Jesus – Marshall Jennings
Zandra/Irene/Mary – Lindsey Jones
Peaches/Baby Jane – Taylor Pietz
Andrea – Christina Rios
Shawntel/Eve – Anna Skidis
Tremont – Luke Steingruby
Jerry’s Inner Valkyrie – Kimi Short
Studio Audience – Reynaldo Arceno, Tyler Cheatem, Joel Hackbarth, Ann Hier, Sarah Porter, Michelle Sauer, Kimi Short, Christopher Strawhun

THE NEW LINE BAND
Piano/Conductor – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Guitar – D. Mike Bauer
Second Keyboard – Sue Goldford
Percussion – Clancy Newell
Trumpet – Patrick Swan
Reeds – Robert Vinson

THE ARTISTIC STAFF
Director – Scott Miller
Assistant Director – Mike Dowdy
Directing Intern – Alex Glow
Music Director – Jeffrey Richard Carter
Choreographer – Robin Michelle Berger
Dance Captain – Michelle Sauer
Fight Choreographer – Nicholas Kelly
Stage Manager/Lighting Technician – Gabe Taylor
Scenic and Lighting Designer – Rob Lippert
Costume Designer – Sarah Porter
Sound Designer – Benjamin Rosemann
Props Master – Kimi Short
Severed Head Design – Patricia Edmonds
Scenic Artists – Kate Wilkerson, Melanie Kozak, Patrick Donnigan, Gary Karasek, Sharon Russell
Box Office Manger – Alex Glow
Volunteer Coordinator – Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter Lindberg

REVIEWS
“Director Scott Miller's take on the lowbrow show lives up to the promise in both halves of its name. There are Springer's startling revelations, dirty secrets and white-trash fights, but in the play, this human misery is actually a battle for the soul of mankind played out across Earth and Hell (with a special guest appearance from God). Richard Wagner himself would high-five Springer after witnessing the audacity of this production, which is both hilarious and surprising in its gravity.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“With Jerry Springer: The Opera, New Line brings us the St. Louis premiere of a musical that has actually achieved a modicum of success, but it's not a choice that you're likely to find anywhere else in this region due to its adult nature and content. New Line is dedicated to taking those kind of risks. And, I'm so glad they are, because I love seeing presentations that push the envelope, especially when they're done so brilliantly. . . I really loved this show, and I think you should see it. It has a kind of artistic 'shock value' that you won't find anywhere else.” – Chris Gibson, BroadwayWorld

“A few weeks ago, I asked Scott Miller what was redemptive about Jerry Springer. Now, that I've seen it, I can say 'just about everything.' And yet this play about the human condition made me laugh more than I've ever laughed in a theater before. And I'll never again hear the F-word without imagining an operatic delivery!” – Nancy Fowler, KWMU

“Superficially, of course, this show belongs on a shelf in a 'place of honor' with John Waters' outrageous Pink Flamingos and its competition to be named 'the filthiest person in the world'. . . . But look a little deeper and you'll find something enduringly beautiful and simple also running through, in structure and style. Because there may be a river leading back to Thornton Wilder's Our Town underneath it all. . . John Waters would be proud. So would Thornton Wilder." – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway

“With a sure hand and acerbic wit, New Line Theatre's artistic director Scott Miller once again stages a thoroughly enjoyable evening of musical entertainment and humor. . . The guests and audience members handle the vocal gymnastics of opera well. . . Their interpretations were uninhibited and their songs and interactions delightfully energetic, with chaotically choreographed numbers and unexpected quiet moments that added brief introspection to the exhibitionistic spectacle on stage. . . a quality production with strong direction and spot-on performances, and I applaud the company for the bold and daring theater they produce.” – Tina Farmer, KDHX

“For those who aren't squeamish about such depravity -- especially set to music -- it’s a joy ride that keeps you laughing and gasping throughout the three acts. There’s even a moral or two of sorts.” – Steve Allen, Stagedoor St. Louis

“While this isn't a musical for the faint-hearted, honestly, there is something disarming and inherently funny about the pairing of operatic music with dirty lyrics, and with this ensemble, under Scott Miller's zestful direction, the emotion churning below the surface of these outrageous stories goes a long way in making the profane more palatable. . . these people aren't freaks. They're all yearning for their Jerry Springer Moment -- bigger than life characters that get bigger than life numbers.” – Andrea Torrence, St. Louis Theatre Snob

"In St. Louis, there’s only one theatre and one director that I can think of with the audacity to even attempt to do this nutty show: Scott Miller’s New Line Theatre. As usual, his troop of fine thespians is not shy about performing edgy material. If you blanch at Avenue Q’s full frontal puppet sex and masturbation songs or feel ill at ease with the irreverent humor of The Book of Mormon, then I’d encourage you to get your fix of operatic theatre at the Fox this weekend. If, however, you like your theatre bold, if you’re the type of person who stretches their neck to see the body when you pass a car wreck, or if you have a peculiar predilection for adult diapers, Jerry Springer: The Opera is for you. . . New Line Theatre’s production of Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee’s Jerry Springer: The Opera was filthy fun. It’s also completely uncensored. You have been warned." – Jeff Ritter, Critical Blast

Jerry Springer: The Opera, which makes The Book of Mormon look like Kiss Me, Kate, is not for everybody. It is in fact the most vulgar musical I have ever seen. That’s not a knock, though, merely a description. Director Scott Miller and his cast roll in the gutter with unbridled zeal, singing about infidelity, the Ku Klux Klan and, oh, yeah, 'adult babies' who choose to wear diapers. . . The combination of outrageous staging, foul language, and stabs at religion shove Jerry Springer the Opera to the edge of musical theater.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“There's mention of sex, of course, in multitudinous variations, and other bodily functions, addictions, strange personal, uh, preferences, and antiestablishmentarianism, both political and theological. It's a veritable encyclopedia of offensiveness. What fun! The opening is a choral work, beautiful music, exquisitely sung. Then one begins to pay attention to the lyrics, and there's the contrast. . . Another trait of Miller is his seeming habit of casting gifted singers even though they don't resemble television anchors. This reflection of real life is one of his most endearing qualities, and this show is a great example of how that benefits the audience.” – Ann Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

“What New Line’s rendition does have is a number of performers whose strong, crystalline clear voices adapt well to an operatic style on the many clever arias written by the composers. . . Jerry Springer: The Opera is juvenile, rude, crude and lewd, but also a lot of fun.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“This modern work is as cheeky as John Waters’ film canon, and as tawdry as the sleaziest current reality shows. Copiously laced with profanity, the show gleefully shocks and offends. If you are a Judgy McJudgerson, stay away. If you are adventurous, can withstand swear words, and appreciate the fearlessness of the New Line regulars, it can be an interesting night of theater. . . Co-directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy swiftly move the piece, maintaining the high jinks spirit and allowing the characters to have their moments of infamy. In turn, the tight cast immerse themselves in this gaudy, bold show. They all have a blast, and want us to be entertained by the shenanigans. They follow Jerry’s advice: Take care of each other.” – Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat

DIRECTOR'S NOTES
TV Guide once called The Jerry Springer Show the worst show in the history of television. Critic Janice Kaplan wrote in TV Guide that coming on television to tell one’s secret is like “defecating in public.” I'm sure lots of people (most of whom have never seen Springer) would agree. But then why has the show been on the air for more than two decades, to such consistently strong ratings?

It's easy to smile smugly and conclude America is just stupid. Talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael famously said, “Nobody wants to watch anything that’s smarmy or tabloid or silly or unseemly – except the audience.”

But America isn't stupid. A big part of the appeal is that humans crave narrative. It's how we learn, how we preserve our history and culture, how we share experiences, how we explain ideas, and how we entertain ourselves. Narrative is the primary form of human communication, and the most universal is the narrative of a human life. The Jerry Springer Show offers up two or three narratives every day, human hero myths in miniature. And in those stories, no matter how outrageous (and no matter whether we think the stories are 100% true or not), we see ourselves, because we recognize universal human themes – love, loss, betrayal, lust, revenge, humiliation, despair, triumph, joy. We've all felt these things, though maybe (hopefully) not to the extreme degree we see on Springer.

The Jerry Springer Show offers us what Bat Boy, Little Shop of Horrors, Cry-Baby, and Urinetown offer us, exaggerated but truthful human behavior under a magnifying glass. But the exaggeration doesn't obscure the truthful. And notice that, like Springer, all the shows I mentioned are about the Other, the outcasts, the misfits. As Elayne Rapping wrote in The Progressive, “The people on these shows are an emotional vanguard, blowing the lid off the idea that America is anything like the place Ronald Reagan pretended to live in.”

So what's the Big Picture point of Jerry Springer the Opera? Why did Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee write this wildly unique show? It's clearly more than just an elaborate goof. There's genuine weight tucked away amidst the obscene, high-energy lunacy.

At one point in Act II, Baby Jane tries to save Jerry by saying, “Jerry is not to blame. With or without Jerry's show, we'd all end up the same. Jerry did not make it so. He merely holds a mirror to it.”

It’s a legitimate argument, right? Does Jerry create that culture or just pander to it? Or is it some of both? The mistake is to think that Jerry controls his guests and his show; the real Jerry would be the first to admit he's just a ringmaster, not God.

As you can see, though Jerry Springer the Opera is insanely funny and outrageous, and incredibly vulgar, it's also a whole lot more than that. And that's really cool.

Enjoy the ride.