We interviewed three of the major characters in the show: Jerry (Michael Brandon), the Angel Gabriel (Andrew Bevis) and the Devil (David Bedella).
Is this your first West End role? "Yes, and it has also been my first role at the National, too. But my roots are in theatre, and that's where I started — in dinner theatre, where no sooner have they cleared away the meal, prepared the performance area and let you get under way, than someone says, very loudly — and just when you've grabbed the audience's attention — 'May I have some more coffee?'"
What do you most enjoy about performing in Jerry Springer — The Opera? "There are so many things, but one of the best has to be the fact that, while staying in character, I can — especially in the first half — dissociate myself from the action a little, and watch the audience: feeling their excitement when I come on stage and seeing it grow during the evening is a real buzz for me."
The wig and glasses certainly make you look like him! "That's the idea! But as well as the Armani suit, the wig, and so on, what you really need to portray a character is the essence: the walk, the pitch of the voice, the pattern of the person, and that's what I hope I've achieved. I watched and re-watched about eight or ten episodes of his television program and observed the way he listened, how he concentrated on the guests on his program, how he focussed on them and how he tried to give them sort of sense of self-knowledge— what we call the Jerry Springer Moment." What do you most hope the audience will get out of the show? "We hit the spot in so many ways with this show, which is unique, but what I love, and so does the audience, is the music: its beauty, its power, the fabulous voices of the cast — especially the trained opera singers. And I hope the word 'opera' doesn't put people off. Anyone who sees this show will never again automatically think that opera isn't for them!"
"This is my first major London show, and what better way to start?" You've performed in England before, though? "Yes, when I played Big Daddy in Sweet Charity at the Crucible, in Sheffield. It's really great as a theatre, but there's a special kick to being at the National and, from October, in the West End."
The show has an open-ended run at the Cambridge. Is your contract open-ended, too? "No! As I'm sure you'll have heard, there's some talk of taking it to other places, including Broadway, of course, and I hope to be a part of that process.
You've been in a huge range of musicals during your career. Do you have a preference for any particular sort of musical? "Well, I 'm very fond of Gilbert and Sullivan, whose work enables you to really enjoy singing 'legitimate' music! A general appeal that is shared by all musicals is that, in America at any rate, you're paid three times the amount for a musical than you are for a straight play, and as an actor that's a definite appeal!"
It must be a relief being in a hit, after starring in the rather disastrously received Romeo and Juliet — The Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre? "Thank you! Actually it was fairly devastating getting those reviews for the show, but you are in a show because you believe in it and in best showbiz tradition you just have to go out there and do your best, whatever the reviews. Fortunately they've been rave reviews for Jerry Springer — The Opera.
You've been with the show for a while? "Yes, I was with it up in Edinburgh. There were a fair amount of changes in it after that. Despite the background at Edinburgh, we still had the usual nine or ten weeks rehearsals that you get at the National, and that was, of course, a great help in working on the piece."
Did you know much about Jerry Springer, the television show, before being associated with this musical version? "I used to watch the show on TV in Australia, so I was aware of its format and style, which we're true to in the opera."
What was the main impact on you of the transfer to the National? "A lot of the audience at the National are subscribers who book ahead, and book several shows on spec. They're not the sort of people who would have booked to see the show if it had come straight into the commercial theatre, and you can tell that by the look on their faces when the show starts! But a great pleasure for me is seeing how quickly they get into it and how they're sort of taken by surprise at how good it is. By the end they're cheering and standing like everyone else!"
And what about the transfer into the West End? "We're in rep at the moment, so giving just a few performances each week. The biggest change will be the vocal discipline of giving eight shows a week, but we'll pull through: it's just a case of pacing yourself."
And what for you is the most attractive thing about Jerry Springer — The Opera? "It's that it's unique. I can confidently say there isn't another show anything like it!"