Springer opera likely for Norwich

MARK NICHOLLS A controversial musical looks set to come to Norwich, despite protests from a religious organisation.


A controversial musical looks set to come to Norwich, despite protests from a religious organisation.

The nationwide tour of Jerry Springer - The Opera looked doomed after pressure group Christian Voice threatened to picket venues across the country over the content of the show, causing 30pc of theatres to pull out.

But now the tour is due to go ahead after 21 regional theatres, including Norwich Theatre Royal, stepped in to save it from collapse.

Theatre Royal marketing director Mark Hazell said last night that there were still final negotiations to take place but he was confident the show would come to Norwich.

“We would hope to make a final announcement some time in November,” he said. “We are keen to bring it to an audience here, people are hungry to see it and it is part of our job to bring the best theatre to Norwich.”

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He also said there were no fears over protests from Christian Voice.

“That is part of a democratic society, people should be able to protest and make their views known, we welcome that and that is what theatre is all about,” he added.

The show ran into problems following the Christian Voice threat and then Arts Council England turned down a request to fund the tour.

But the 21 theatres determined to stage the production have struck a deal with the show's producers Avalon.

The theatres have agreed to pool their marketing costs in order to save money.

The show's creative team are waiving their royalties and Avalon are investing £650,000 in the tour.

Jerry Springer - The Opera will now open in Plymouth in January 2006 for a 22-week run.

Composer and co-writer Richard Thomas said: “I am overjoyed Jerry Springer - The Opera is going on tour in spite of such extreme protest.

“These theatres have come together and asked: 'What do we have to do to get this show on the road?' They have decided they will not be dictated to by a group like Christian Voice.

“If the tour had not gone ahead, the result would be that investors and producers would become more and more risk averse. This is a freedom of speech issue.”

Christian Voice protesters may go ahead with their threat to picket the tour.

The award-winning West End show has already been seen by 425,000 people and was watched by 2.4 million viewers when it was shown on BBC2 earlier this year.

But its controversial content led to a record 63,000 complaints from viewers.

Thomas said he was confident audiences across the country would like the show.

“We are trying to get across that it is not a show about blasphemy. It is morally uplifting. It is not about Jesus in a nappy,” he said.

The tour will take in cities including Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham and Bradford.