I almost don't know where to begin with this post, but one thing is true- the first act of Jerry Springer, the Opera made me laugh until I had to wipe tears from my cheeks- and then I kept wiping them away for remainder of the show. Brilliantly written and designed by Richard Thomas as a true opera, it won all of the top theater awards in England when it premiered and it's now playing through October 16th at the Victoria Theater at 16th and Mission. Musically, it's a weird combination of Handel and Lloyd Weber that isn't going to make "serious" opera fans think John Adams or Kaija Saariaho has a challenger coming up behind them, but it is more interesting and sophisticated than any contemporary musical I can recall in recent years. It requires people who can really sing opera and Ray of Light Theater has found a terrific, all local, cast for this show. It doesn't feel, look nor sound like a show put on by a "small" company and Ray of Light has done an excellent job with this production, which celebrates their 10th anniversary.

Chad Newsome, Cara Louise, DF and I attended the Saturday night performance on opening weekend and there was a palpable excitement in the air, made all the more fun by a faux red-carpet entrance complete with photographers to make the attendees feel like they were going to have their own little "Jerry moment." The first act of the show is like a typical Springer episode but with the sleaze factor magnified tenfold as one guest after another reveals who they are secretly involved with. The chorus, which comments on the proceedings with a wit and energy worthy of Euripides, mocks, threatens and cajoles the guests. The craziness escalates as each guest takes a turn, culminating in Chris Yorro running around the stage in a blue diaper during "Diaper Man/ Montel Cums Dirty." Yes, those are the names of the arias in an opera which also features such wholesome numbers as "I've Been Seeing Someone Else," "Chick with a Dick," "Poledancer" and "Every Last Motherf**ker Should Go Down," just to name a few.

Timitio Artusio, Chris Yorro, Jessica Coker; Rebecca Pingree (front)

Photo by Michah Joel

I won't spoil too much of the plot, but suffice to say that God and the Devil (a terrific turn by Jonathan Reisfield) have a showdown for Springer's soul which includes appearances by the KKK, Jesus, Mary and Adam and Eve. It's offensive as can be, but it's truly hysterical. Patrick Michael Dukeman is spot-on as Springer, pretty much the only character in show who doesn't sing all of his lines. The entire cast is solid, the costumes are perfect and the set by Maya Linke looks just right. The music, led by Ben Prince (Martuni's regulars may recognize him, as well as J.Conrad Franke who plays Springer's Inner Valkyrie), is overly loud at times but the mix can be heard if one pays attention. The volume seems appropriate to the action onstage however, and all of the singers are mic'd of course. We sat in the 2nd row and had no problem hearing everyone, though I've been told the acoustics in the house are very inconsistent. Performances are general seating, so get there early and ask someone is the house where the "sweet spots" are.

Go see this. I really don't want to tell you more than I already have because most of it has to be seen and heard to be believed. I've ever laughed this much at an opera in my life. Nor do I ever expect to again. With the exception of the Makropolous Case- this is going to beat anything at the "real" opera house over on Van Ness, at least until June, when Wagner's 15 hour opus on the perils of incest unfurls (aka Der Ring Des Nibelungen). I can't recommend this show highly enough- and best of all, there are tickets on Goldstar!

One of these people is John Marcher. The rest are waiting for their "Jerry moment."