A city vicar has defended the Theatre Royal Norwich’s controversial decision to stage a production of Jerry Springer The Opera, but other church leaders have blasted the decision.
The West End show, which has sparked outrage among some people in the Christian community in the UK, is on national tour and will be at Norwich’s Theatre Royal from Monday, May 8 to Saturday, May 13.
The show has been criticised because it depicts Jesus, Mary and God as guests of Jerry Springer’s talk show with one scene featuring Jesus in a nappy.
Christian pressure group Christian Voice has been following the show around the country protesting outside theatres and urging Christians to send letters of protest to local councils.
But Rev Peter Nokes, of St Peter Mancroft Church, said today he did not think it was blasphemous, but rather a musical that expressed Christian views and concerns.
He has seen the show twice on DVD, and will see it at the Theatre Royal.
He said: ï¿½The so-called blasphemy scenes are all portrayed as a kind of dream in Springer’s mind. I don’t think they are blasphemous because they are in a dream. The writers are saying that Jerry Springer is manipulative. It is not about God. It’s about the lack of dignity in which he treats people’s problems.ï¿½
He said that while some extreme Christian activists had been urging all Christians to pray for the financial ruin of the companies behind the show, the majority of mainstream church leaders and Christians in Norwich did not wish to associate themselves with these views or with such tactics.
ï¿½Jerry Springer, the TV personality exploits people by making entertainment of their problems, seemingly without any concern for the dignity of his guests. Humanity is degraded.
ï¿½The Opera ridicules and satirises not only the trashiness of the TV show that Springer presents, but also the sort of culture which glories in such trash.
ï¿½In ways resonant of the mediaeval morality, it suggests that Jerry Springer’s soul is in peril.ï¿½
He added the language in the musical was no worse than that heard walking through Norwich on a Saturday afternoon.
But Major Ray Begley, corps officer of the Salvation Army Norwich citadel, one of the largest Christian churches in the city, who also trained as a dancer and appeared in six West End shows before he joined the church, is opposed to the show.
He said: ï¿½It insults the name of God and our faith. If the show was about the Muslim faith it would not happen in Norwich or the UK. Too often the Christian voice is too quiet.
ï¿½My hope and prayer is that the Jerry Springer show will collapse and close before it reaches Norwich. We are already leafleting people at the Theatre Royal and will continue to do so.
ï¿½If it does come here, a Salvation Army band will play outside the theatre on one night. In Jerry Springer respect for our faith and God is gone.ï¿½
Mark Hazell, marketing director at the Theatre Royal, said: ï¿½Jerry Springer the Opera has been acclaimed by critics as one of the most ground-breaking musicals produced in British theatre.
ï¿½It has won all four major Best Musical Awards the Olivier, Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and What’s On Stage – a feat unprecedented in the last 20 years, and not achieved by any Cameron Mackintosh or Andrew Lloyd Webber show.
ï¿½It is not our mission to censor or protect but to demonstrate and illuminate, as far as the law and commercial constraints allow.
ï¿½We welcome the opportunity to debate the issues this production examines which include the cult of celebrity, the power of the media, the nature of religious and spiritual belief in a commercialised society and the nature of personal and social responsibility.ï¿½
He said they regretted any offence caused and he expected would meet their target in ticket sales.