In "Jerry Springer: The Opera,"
a musical production premiering on July 9 at Anaheim Hills' Chance Theater, a fat, gay Jesus gets fondled by Eve, and Mary is introduced to the audience with a chorus of, "Raped by an angel, raped by God!"
Some Catholic groups aren't too pleased.
Over the past week, the award-winning, 49-seat theater has been bombarded by more than 1,500 e-mails protesting the raunchy, expletive-ridden play, which had successful runs in London and New York. The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property is leading the campaign
, urging Catholics to send out the messages.
According to the group, examples of the show's "blasphemous content" include:
- The crucifixion is mocked and the Eucharist is trashed.
- There is a lady singing "Jerry eleison." (mocking the Mass: Kyrie Eleison)
- Jesus is introduced as "the hypocrite son of the fascist tyrant on high." He wears a diaper, is fat and effeminate and later admits: "Actually, I am a bit gay."
- Eve gropes Jesus in a manner too indecent to describe while the Annunciation is described as a rape.
- God is a fat man in a white suit who complains about being blamed for everyone's problems. He invites Jerry Springer to join Him to "sit in Heaven beside me, hold my hand and guide me." At the end, Jerry emerges as the true savior of mankind.
The vulgar, no-holds-barred production "follows Jerry Springer to the afterlife and beyond." Oanh Nguyen, the co-founder and artistic director for Chance Theater, says the play is not meant to be a mockery of Christianity, but rather an analysis of pop culture.
"It is offensive," Nguyen admits. "It's X-rated without a doubt. It uses the word 'cunt.' Act One ends with tap-dancing KKK line. But at the same time, I think it's a great musical. And it's funny as all heck.
"Ultimately, it's a satire," he adds. "I don't think the focus is really on religion. It's more on the value of reality shows like Jerry Springer. Are these shows holding up a mirror to parts of society we'd like to get forget, or are these shows exploiting these people? We would not put anything on that stage that we didn't believe has something interesting to say."
Nguyen says he anticipated a backlash, as more than 1,500 people protested outside BBC offices in the UK when the network aired the production in 2005. Most of the e-mails they've gotten have been from outside Orange County and even the United States, but he's received angry phone calls from local Christians and Catholics as well.
"It's sort of exciting and scary," he says. "We're actually talking about the safety of our cast.
At the same time, they have a right to free speech. It's gonna be interesting. If we don't take the risk, who will?"