Saturday, September 18, 2010

A trip to hell with friends and colleagues.

Tracy Camp teaches math at Laney College. Her mom Ernestine also taught here back in the day as well. She's also a mom. You'd think that would be enough to keep anyone occupied, but you would be wrong.

A few years ago, Tracy caught the acting bug and she has been in many roles in local theater productions, mostly musicals.

Earlier this year, she told me she was in rehearsals for Jerry Springer: The Opera which would be performed at the Victoria Theater down in the Mission District. It's a very ambitious modern piece that was originally produced in London several years back, and it does count as an opera. The only role that isn't sung is Jerry Springer himself, who is relegated to the side of the story in Act One but becomes the clear protagonist in Acts Two and Three, which take place in Purgatory and Hell.

(Photo by Kat Wade, S.F. Chronicle)

When I heard about this, I immediately thought of my blog buddy Mike Strickland, who loves opera from the ancient to the avant garde. This publicity still features Jordan Best as a crack whore, Keith Haddock as Steve the head of security (a very meaty role for operatic spear carrier), and Tracy as Peaches, the long time girlfriend of the fat, bald guy in the background, who in the best tradition of Jerry Springer's guests is constitutionally incapable of keeping it in his pants.

(photo by Mike Strickland)

Steve Hess plays the unfaithful Dwight in Act One and God in Act Three, and Timotio Artusio plays a pre-operative transsexual who is another of Dwight's close personal friends. My friend Mike works as a supernumerary at the San Francisco Opera and has been in several productions with Timotio, who did a wonderful star turn in the upbeat Talk To The Hand in Act One.

As you might expect, your choir group is not the target audience of Jerry Springer The Opera. When I told Tracy I'd be coming to see it, she apologized in advance for all the profanity I'd be hearing.

It was a remarkable evening at theater. You can read Mike's review at Civic Center, where he lavishes praise on the band that played the very challenging music and Jonathan Reisfeld, who played Jerry Springer's warm up man in Act One and Satan is Acts Two and Three. I'd like to also give a shout out to Chris Yorro, who played Montel, the guy who likes to wear diapers in Act One and Jesus in Act Three.

(Photo taken from the Ray of Light Productions cast list)

After the show, Mike remarked that this British opera continues in the tradition of oratorio that has been a hallmark in England since Handel moved from Germany to London. In oratorio, the chorus gets a major role and the cast list shows that many of the chorus members have had much larger roles in their careers. As often happens, there is someone in the chorus I found myself watching more than anyone else, and in this show it was Gregory Marks. Among his other credits, he played The Mysterious Man in Into The Woods and Nicely-Nicely in Guys and Dolls, so this is not his first time stealing scenes.

If you'd like an interesting evening at the theater in San Francisco, it's hard to beat Jerry Springer The Opera. It's long, it's loud, there are times you want to look away but you just can't. Don't be surprised if you find yourself singing "This is your Jerry Springer moment!" for a few days after seeing the show. The cast is filled with strong voices and good acting in an over the top sort of way. But hey, it's the Springer show! What, you were expecting Strindberg?

More than that, the guys from Security walk around the crowd beforehand making sure there aren't any troublemakers. I had a new found level of respect for their work when the show was through.

1 comment:

Anne said...

There was a production here on television in the UK, and it was fabulous. I urge anyone still dithering to go and see it.

The fundies made their usual kerfuffle, which ensured that it got even wider publicity.