Originally created 03/01/05

Group targets 'Jerry Springer - The Opera'



LONDON - A Broadway engagement of "Jerry Springer - The Opera" is still being planned despite pressure from an evangelical Christian group in England, according to the show's producers

"While the widely covered but small-scale religious protests in the UK surrounding 'Jerry Springer - The Opera' have not been helpful in the completion of raising the capital for the Broadway production, they have by no means brought an end to our New York plans," John Barlow, the show's New York spokesman, said Monday in a statement.

"We are looking to complete the finance process over the next six months and are planning a Broadway opening in the first half of 2006."

Avalon Promotions said one of the financial backers of a New York production had pulled out after the show was targeted by Christian Voice, a Wales-based religious organization that opposes abortion, homosexuality, Sunday trading and British membership in the European Union."

Last April, producers of the musical announced that the $13.9 million production would open on Broadway this fall, although no date or New York theater was announced.

Producers said a British tour scheduled for later this year would go ahead, although one stage - the Derby Playhouse in central England - has pulled out.

Creators of the musical, inspired by Springer's trashy American TV talk show, say it grapples with issues of good, evil and personal responsibility. But some Christians have been angered by its hundreds of expletives, parade of lowlifes and depiction of Jesus Christ in a diaper admitting that he is a "bit gay."

"Jerry Springer," with music by Richard Thomas and lyrics by Thomas and Stewart Lee, opened to rave reviews at the National Theatre in April 2003 and later transferred to the West End for a commercial West End engagement that ended Feb. 19.

The show has won several top theater awards, including best new musical at the 2004 Olivier Awards.

But it gained new notoriety, and attracted the ire of religious conservatives, when it was broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corp. in January. The BBC said it had received 40,000 complaints before the show was aired.

Last week, a Scottish cancer charity, Maggie's Centres, turned down $5,760 raised by a charity performance of the show after Christian Voice threatened to protest outside the charity's premises.

David Soul, who played Springer in the West End production, accused the religious group of "strong-arm, mob-style tactics."

But Christian Voice director Stephen Green said Maggie's had avoided a "potential public relations disaster of profiting from filth and blasphemy."

AP Drama Writer Michael Kuchwara contributed to this story.