Tag Archives: America

Talk Show: The Musical by WILLS MORGAN

2 Aug

IT HAD TRASH TALK performed by opera singers . It had a musical score which boasted some some actual tunes. It had a whole first act and a bit of a second act. And it had a big black man in a clean white nappy. This is the story of how JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA became the hit show a decade ago today at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  NOW READ MORE……

IN AUGUST of 2002, a modestly staged entertainment was to become the hit of the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. An indication of what was about to hit the city appeared on the cover of the weekly guide to Fringe events: the LIST magazine.

 

All undressed…and nowhere to go.

 

In small letters: Edinburgh stripped bare. In capital letters and in a larger font: NAPPY DAYS. And the picture? A big and beautiful Black Man. Wearing a Diaper and With a Dummy In his Mouth. And Nothing Else covering his Modesty. Apart from the strategic placing of a TV talk-show cue card which bore the following legend:

 

JERRY SPRINGER: The Opera.

 

Note the title of the Legend. JERRY SPRINGER: a man who has had many careers. A lawyer, politician and an Emmy-Award winning news anchor. And, in 1991, the host of what was called a ‘talk show’ called (naturally enough) The Jerry Springer Show.

This show started in a lower case font. As un-sensational social commentary of the kind that Mr. Springer was already known for. The viewing figures were not good. (This is a polite way of saying those same viewing figures were shit. Really quite shitty.)

A new producer was brought in; his name was Richard Dominick. He’s responsible for Jerry Springer becoming the character that we know we love to hate to love: JERRY SPRINGER.

The new show was pretty much like life itself: full of surprises. Low lives. Unhappy marriages. Perverse behaviour. The Ku Klux Klan. The odd prostitute. God. Romances with animals. You know what I mean. There was heckling. There was fighting. There was people throwing things. There was people throwing up. But most of all…importantly…most especially…there was people having themselves a good, good time. It was trashy. It was ‘bloody funny’. It was made for TV. But equally…it was…and is…opera.

So how did JERRY SPRINGER get attached to The Opera in its lower case sense? Here’s how: with one man with a piano.

Lore Lixenberg. She sings. And then some.

A glamourous, voluptuous mezzo-soprano singer named LORE. A couple of crates of John Smiths bitter. ASDA lager, as well, just for a bit of contrast. In a small studio in Battersea, South London, In England, that itty-bitty island off the coast of Europe.

The Brixton-based composer Richard Thomas’ workshops were called ‘How to write an Opera about Jerry Springer’. The flyer for the show was an apology: ‘Have an idea. Think it’s a shit idea. Despair. Do it anyway’. It was done: and the Legend was born.

In August 2001, Mr. Thomas’ London cabaret group, known as KOMBAT OPERA took to the stage in multiple guises. Serial seducers. Trailer Trash. The Ku Klux Klan. And right in the middle of it all…an anti-chorus every bit as fierce as the crowd of Jews as portrayed by JS Bach in his Matthew and John passions.

The Indepenent on Sunday journalist Anna Picard wrote of ‘the first opera to take television as its subject’. She is 50 percent correct. As I know only too well, the subject matter of JERRY SPRINGER: The Opera is both Tele-Visual and Opera-Tic.

The word was spread that this was a show to see. In January and February of 2002 anybody who was anybody came to the second run of performances. Germaine Greer was there. Nicholas Hytner visited daily. Tim Rice came. Harry Hill, Chris Morris, Mel and Sue, Frank Skinner, Soo from “The Sooty Show” and much of the cream of British comedy saw what had inevitably become JS:TO.

Journalists wrote about it unbidden. Lyn Gardner of the Guardian came, saw half the show and wrote a review of the whole that was not polite. How we in the cast laughed at her. She should have gone to Specsavers, we said.

Fortunately, there was enough good press to secure an investment from TV mogul and celeb hairdresser Allan McKeown for a rewrite: the cast and newly-expanded company of 20 reconvened in Clapham to prepare to take JS:TO to the comedy Mecca that is the Edinburgh fringe.

Thomas and Lee in 2002

Stewart Lee became director of JS:TO as well as co-writer. This was to be both a happy and unhappy accident for him. Richard Thomas continued to de-compose. International ABBA expert Martin Lowe urged and inspired us on. Dance expert Jenny Arnold helped to cover cracks that were still evident in the concept.

Day one of rehearsals was a bit nervy. Mr. McKeown came to the first sing-through with his wife, the artist formerly known as Tracey Ullman. We were a cast member down, as Andrew Bevis (a talented Australian singer) was voiceless. I was given the job of filling in Andrew’s part whilst Andrew had to endure listening to me rip his role to shreds!

Mr. Auf Wiedersehn, Pet with Miss ‘I had “The Simpsons” in my show first’

Allan McKeown takes up the tale: “In the car on the way to the first ever sing through of JERRY SPRINGER: The Opera my wife asked me how much money I had invested in the show. I told her. ‘You must have loved the script’ she said. I told her I hadn’t read it. ‘Oh you loved the music?’ I said I hadn’t heard it. ‘You idiot’ she said. Half way through the sing-through she whispers to me ‘How much of the show do we own?’ ‘50%’ I told her. ‘You idiot you should have bought the lot.’”

There were two major additions to the cast. I had played Dwight, the serial seducer who was always ‘seeing someone else’. I exchanged that for the role of Jesus (a higher calling) whilst Benjamin Lake took the role of Dwight. Richard Thomas was so impressed with Ben that he wrote in an extra role for him: that part was the biggie… that of God Almighty himself.

from Rocky to Satan: David Bedella.

But the major find was David Bedella. David had scored major theatre credits which included singing Fran-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show alongside Meatloaf, La Cage Aux Folles with Gene Barry and Caiaphas In Jesus Christ Superstar with Ted Neely and Carl Anderson. Credentials enough for the dual roles of Devil and Warm-up Guy.

Returning members of KOMBAT Opera were Valda Aviks in a myriad of roles, including a Superior Mother: also Lore Lixenberg as Valda’s vocal and comedic foil…and of course the play friend of Diaper Man. I was Montel, the guy revealed to be the Man of Diaper, who was to return as Jesus in the second act.

this is a wierd pic. get over it. talk to the haynd.


The Canadian funny-guy Rick Bland reassumed his true characterization of ‘The Springer’. Andrew Bevis played Tremont, the Chick with a Dick. The distinguished actress Beverley Klein had a go at being a pole dancer. David Birrell was Klein’s Hillbilly husband.


To say the casting was ideal was not completely true: but enough of the pieces were there for the show to succeed up north. Most importantly, the writers insisted on colour-blind casting in all areas of the company. Later…much much later…the entire chorus of our little show was to win an Olivier Award for their outstanding contribution to a Musical.

JERRY SPRINGER: The Opera wasn’t the only thing happening at the 2002 Fringe Festival. The other big ticket was for Derevo, the theatre ensemble from St Petersburg. Omid Djalili and Ross Noble made the cover of the List magazine alongside that picture of me in the nappy. But there was only one show that had low lives, unhappy marriages, perverse behaviour, the Ku Klux Klan, The odd prostitute and God in it. You know the one I’m talking about.


Word spread that this was a musical event that should be seen. Many, many people saw it. Including the man himself: Jerry Springer. On a lovely Saturday afternoon. ”The Theatre was packed. The producers didn’t want to scare the cast, so they didn’t tell them which day I was coming – that was the plan at least. When I walked into the theatre though, everyone started chanting ‘Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!’ I think the cast caught on pretty quickly.’”

his middle name is norman

Afterwards Jerry met the cast and shook my hand. He admitted he wasn’t sure he should shake it, given my casting as the Diaper Man.

I said ‘It all right, I’ve wiped my hands.’

(c) Wills Morgan 2012: published first in CCK.

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To be taken with a grain of salt

10 Jul

They say sometimes that youth is wasted on the young.

Well, I’ll tell the tale and you be the judge.

don't try at home (or anywhere else)

Drugs don’t work. Taking the wrong drugs really doesn’t work.

Matthew Hammond, a 21-year-old Georgia male  from Georgia in Miami was arrested on July 3 after being discovered ‘out of his mind’ on bath salts, and armed with a knife.

Police were called to the scene and Hammond was arrested. But not before a grim discovery was made. To whit: ‘a strong odour of excrement emitting from his breath’ and ‘faeces in his mouth and teeth.’

Sorry you had to see that, folks.

We know what we like on this blog (all together now. coffee cake and kink). But how bizarre is this?

The world is full of people who have convinced themselves they are mature enough to sample the latest drug of choice. You’ve had your fun now. But watch out: the next generation is copying you, and it smells something horrid.

Boy or Girl? Cake reveals all!

25 Jan
It’s big news, and what better way to tell the surprise than with a cake? The newest craze in America, parents are hosting Gender Reveal parties where friends and family (and often the parents themselves!) find out what sex the baby will be.

When going for an ultrasound, parents are asked if they would like to know the baby’s gender; in the case of parents who want to host a reveal party, instead of looking at the slip of paper, they’ll slip it into an envelope. The parents will then take this envelope to a baker.

The suspense builds until the parents cut the cake; inside, the pink or blue sponge reveals the gender. It’s a wonderful tradition, and a great way to share good news with everybody at once.

DiB in the Aloha State

24 Jan
Hawaii is the only state in the USA that produces coffee; it is grown on every major island in the State with seven million pounds (3181818.2 kg) produced annually. Hawaii is not only known for its coffee – the most famous being the Big Island’s Kona – but for their herbal teas as well.

One company in Hawaii has dedicated itself to serving its customers with the best quality Hawaiian coffee and providing opportunities within the community. DiB, standing for Deaf in Business, is the only company to run deaf-only cafes in the world.

Their mission statement declares that they will provide employment opportunities for deaf or hearing-impaired (DHI) people in Hawaii and Malaysia and ensure that they have good career prospects. Operational and management training is offered alongside instruction to become a barista, and they aim to motivate and coach DHI people to become business owners themselves. The idea is to start a franchise company, run by DHI who have been trained by DiB and open cafes throughout Malaysia.

There are numerous blends on offer, and tons of teas. All are Hawaiian blends and recipes. However, the cafes serve freshly baked cakes and other bakery treats as well; their passion fruit cheesecake is said to be especially well regarded.

This a wonderful opportunity for many people, and it’s great to see such support within the community. If you’re lucky enough to live in Hawaii, make sure you pop over and see them; if not, their website delivers to the main islands. Here’s hoping they offer international shipping soon!

Give Blood; Get Coffee.

23 Jan
The American Red Cross and Dunkin’ Donuts – an American donut and coffee shop -have teamed up in a scheme dubbed ‘Give a Pint, Get a Pound’. In the hope of raising the number of people who donate blood in the colder months, the scheme has been implemented in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. For every pint of blood that’s donated, the participant will receive a gift voucher for one pound of coffee.

So far, this has been a very popular campaign. Since its launch, there has been a 16% increase of blood donations in January. The colder months of the year have always seen a dip in those volunteering to give blood; American Red Cross Communications Program Manager, Elaine St. Peter says ‘January is a much better month because people love to come get their Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and help those in need.’

Should you wish to donate blood and live in England or Wales, you can find out more here

Miss California

19 Jan
It took two very brave women to make history in California this year: in the sixty years that the Miss USA pageant has been running, Jenelle Hutcherson (26)  and Mollie Thomas (19) were the first openly gay contestants to compete.

Hutcherson, from Long Beach and Thomas, from West Hollywood, both stated that their platform was that of acceptance. Whilst the Miss USA pageant has very conservative roots, organisers insist that the pageant is all about women being role models and promoting individuality – and who wouldn’t admire these women?

Whilst there have been other lesbian contestants in the pageant world, many of them blend in and don’t make it a known thing. This is a world of long hair and high heels, in a general sense. However, the contestants aren’t judged solely on their super-model looks; this pageant is about charisma, self-confidence, poise and knowing oneself. When Hutcherson wore a tux for the Evening Gown phase, there was no questioning her self-confidence and poise; truly, it’s something to admire.

Carrie Prejean could stand to learn a thing or two from these women.

While the media made rather a large fuss about Hutcherson sporting a mohawk, piercings and tattoos, I don’t think that has much to do with her sexuality. Hopefully, this will encourage other ‘alt’ girls to participate in pageants and not feel that they wouldn’t fit in – you don’t need to be gay to wear a ‘hawk, after all! Her girlfriend, a journalist, wrote a wonderful piece on the entire event. The amount of community support that the Long Beach contestant received is heart warming to see.

For Thomas, this was her first pageant. A part-time student at UCLA, she decided to run to promote awareness for the LGBT community and hopes to become a youth advocate and role model. Having volunteered for a school for handicapped children in Mongolia as well as helping to rebuild homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I’d say that she was already a role model before setting a foot on stage.

Whilst Thomas and Hutcherson won’t be wearing a crown this year, we can only wish these exemplary ladies the very best of luck in their future endeavours.

Who’s Mum?

18 Jan
Florida has been the source of contention in the past few weeks thanks to an unprecedented case. It seems that American law regarding the custody of children will have to be re-written, and new attitudes adopted in a great many courtrooms.This over-due change is thanks to a lesbian couple who are in disagreement over their daughter’s custody. The unnamed couple were in a committed relationship for eleven years before seeking counselling and medical advice in preparation for adding a child to their family dynamic.

However, upon discovering that the 39-year-old woman was infertile, her 34-year-old partner donated one of her own eggs, to be implanted into the 39-year-old who then carried the baby to term. For ease of reading, let’s refer to the 39-year-old as the Child-Bearer and the 34 year old as the Egg-Donor. The father was an anonymous donor who waived all rights to the child.

Their child bears both women’s names, though the birth certificate named only the Bearer as the mother. This, then, is the source of all their problems. The couple raised the child in a joint effort until their daughter was two; upon splitting, the Child-Bearer moved to Australia with the child, and the Egg-Donor remained in America. In a bid to gain custody, the Egg-Donor found her former partner in Queensland and both have returned to America for the duration of the custody battle.

However, according to the current legal system, the woman who bore the child is the child’s mother. There is no other case where the woman bearing the child had an egg donated to her by her partner. There are no guidelines; there are no previous rulings. The Child-Bearer claims that she is the mother, due to the fact that she gave birth to the child. The Egg-Donor claims that she is the true mother as she is the girl’s biological parent.

No clear mention has been made as to whether the two women are suing for sole custody. To me, it would make complete sense to treat this as any other divorce between a heterosexual couple who have had children together. While yes, one woman carried the child for nine months and gave birth to her, the other woman gave a part of herself to make this possible. The man does not carry the child for nine months, but he is just as responsible for the child’s creation. How does this differ? They are both parents. They are both mothers in their own rights. The only thing throwing perception is that both parties are women.

Surely, in this situation, due regard should be given to whoever can provide for the child in a more complete fashion. Is the child better cared for by the Child-Bearer? Would the Egg-Donor be in a better position to provide for her? How has the move to Australia changed the situation between the two – would there be arrangements for the child to visit both her Antipodean and her American family? These questions seem to be more pressing than identifying who is the ‘real’ mother; surely the debate centres on intention and the ability to provide for the child? Without a doubt, the question of who deserves the title of ‘true’ motherhood is exceptionally important, though I think a little bit of focus has been lost on some of the large issues here thanks to the unusual circumstance providing a great deal of excitement. Personally, I feel that those viewing this as a purely cerebral argument are conveniently forgetting that this is a real family that’s being discussed.

On Dec. 23, 2011 a Daytona County judge ruled that the Child-Bearer was in fact the ‘true’ mother, as the law states that the person who gave birth to the child is the child’s mother. There was no allowance for the Egg-Donor in the place of her child’s creation. He stated that it ‘broke his heart’ to rule this, but that the law provided no other alternative. I count this rubbish. So did the lawyers in D.C. In the 5th District Court of Appeal, the courts later gave both women custody to the child, stating that Florida law was ‘outdated and violated the Constitution’.

I think it is incredibly important for the law -and those who enforce and represent it- to keep up with the changing technology in reproductive medicine and the evolution of modern-day family structure. Things are not so black and white anymore; as society grows, we find ourselves with new situations. We need our laws to reflect and protect what we hold dear as a society. Whatever shape our families or our relationships take, we need the flexibility shown in everyday social regards to be reflected in our law practitioners’ attitudes, the laws and their interpretation. Thank goodness this case proved a catalyst to make the necessary changes to outdated systems.  A family is not a simple construct, and as such, it should not be restricted by simple ideas.