Theatres across Britain have united in defiance against a threat of prosecution from an evangelical Christian group to save the national tour of the controversial musical Jerry Springer the Opera.
Christian Voice, which organised street vigils on the evening of the BBC broadcast of the opera in January, successfully petitioned to have Arts Council funding of the regional tour axed after damning the show as “blasphemous”.
It sent letters to theatres up and down the country which said: “We are at this moment preparing charges of the criminal offence of blasphemy for service upon those responsible for broadcasting the show on BBC2, and those responsible for staging it at the Cambridge Theatre. Should any regional theatre stage Jerry Springer the Opera this autumn, we shall be looking to prosecute them as well.”
Some theatres bowed to the pressure and the national tour suffered a 30% loss of venues as a result. Yesterday, however, it was announced that the tour will reopen in Plymouth on January 23 and tour cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff, and Nottingham.
Richard Thomas, the show’s composer and co-writer, said: “I am overjoyed Jerry Springer the Opera is going on tour in spite of such extreme protest. I am also buying a flak jacket. And sticking close to the shadows.” The show’s producer, Jon Thoday, said: “I’m delighted that a small minority have not prevented the public from seeing this brilliant show. Freedom of speech and artistic freedom have prevailed.” The musical has been seen by 425,000 theatregoers and had 2.4 million viewers when it was broadcast on BBC2 on January 8, a record figure for a televised musical or opera.