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Trailer-Trash Tribute

A film of the 'Jerry Springer'-inspired play headlines a fundraiser for Arizona Onstage

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Well, dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians. Jerry Springer: The Opera is coming to town.

Not the live show, which has yet to open in North America, but a video of the London stage production, featuring cheesemeister David Soul of Starsky and Hutch fame in the nonspeaking title role.

The two-hour screening is part of Trash and Treasure: Jerry Springer Goes to Hell, a benefit for Arizona Onstage Productions. That's the daring local musical-theater outfit that has brought us such shows as Assassins and Ruthless! No doubt company director Kevin Johnson would be producing Jerry Springer: The Opera himself on stage if he had the rights and a hundred grand or so.

The benefit, taking place at Zuzi! Nov. 5, is intended to recoup some of the $6,000 Arizona Onstage Productions fell short last season. (Johnson has the fiscally unwise habit of paying all the people who work for him, but it's theater rental that really takes the bite out of his bank account, he says.)

The two-hour centerpiece of the three-hour benefit is the London musical inspired by The Jerry Springer Show, the daytime shoutfest renowned for its trailer-trash tangles, its audience's contempt for the losers on display, and such program topics as "Sex With My Sister."

The foul-mouthed first act doesn't stray far from the real Springer format, offering for our consideration a man who cheats on his fiancée with a "chick with a dick," a man with a dirty-diaper fetish, a masochist dressed in a baby-doll outfit singing "Mama Gimme Smack on the Asshole," and a fat woman who dreams of being a pole dancer (played quite touchingly, actually, by Alison Jiear). But Jerry is more or less accidentally shot during a number featuring tap-dancing Klansmen. He's dragged down to hell, where Satan (the spectacular David Bedella) forces Jerry to preside over a special edition of his show, in which Jesus (who admits to being "a little gay") and Adam and Eve are called in to apologize for the way Satan has been treated over the millennia. Of course, things go badly, and order can't even be restored by God himself, who descends in a Liberace getup singing "It Ain't Easy Bein' Me."

Says Johnson, "Maybe I'm completely whacked in the head, but this is the most exciting score I've heard in a long, long time." The music is not really operatic, although the emotions are intensified to operatic proportions. There's a bit of Sondheim, a bit of Lloyd Webber and references to classical composers along the way. Satan and Jesus, for example, engage in florid, extended roulades worthy of Handel; only at the end do you realize that the single word that Satan has been stretching out for the past couple of minutes is "fuck."

"It actually gets very spiritual," says Johnson, "even though the spiritual narrator is a girl who poops in her pants and has a monkeywrench stuck in her head."

Obviously, this is not for the faint of heart. The show's single broadcast on British TV brought thousands of complaints, mostly before the fact, but it was also one of the highest-rated presentations in the history of the English television.

The screening at Zuzi! will follow a three-part intro. First, there's the spectacle of a live performance of "Mama Gimme Smack" by Stephanie Sykes, and pop and opera voice teacher Edmon Johannes singing the show's diaper song, whose lyrics include "I just wanna shit in my pants."

Then, the comedy improv troupe Not Burned Out Just Unscrewed will do a Jerry Springer-like routine, based on situations suggested by the audience. After this, a female illusionist known as Trai'La Trash will offer an assortment of trailer-trash hors-d'oeuvres. Says Johnson, "I expect to have lots of leftovers."

The video--not available commercially in the United States--will then be shown on a 15-foot-diagonal screen, with surround sound.

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