A choir sings Jesus is gay and that the Virgin Mary was raped by angels. Jesus is introduced as the hypocrite son of the fascist tyrant on high.
These are just a few moments in the comedic musical Jerry Springer: The Opera, which will run next Wednesday and Thursday at Carnegie Hall. But a Catholic civil rights organization isnt laughing, crying blasphemy over a show that has been stirring controversy for several years.
Its an all-out assault on Christianity, said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League. The way Jesus and our blessed mother are talked about is completely unconscionable. Its mind-boggling that this would pass at humor.
The real Jerry Springer is the inspiration for the main character but has no official connection to the production.
Donohue said he is just as outraged by the content in Jerry Springer, which stars Harvey Keitel as the famous TV talk-show host, as he is that Carnegie Hall, a New York cultural icon, is allowing the show on its stage.
Carnegie Hall spokeswoman Synneve Carlino said the venue was standing by the booking.
This is a show that has been produced in London and elsewhere in the U.S., she said. Its been well received by critics and audiences, won prestigious awards and has been broadcast nationally on BBC television in the U.K.
The show made headlines in Britain last year when a Christian group sought criminal prosecution of a theater producer and an executive for the British Broadcasting Corp., which telecast the musical in 2005. The High Court ruled last month that the show did not violate blasphemy laws.
Its a very funny show, and its a shame to put in this perspective entirely, said David J. Foster, a producer for the musical. Certainly, the show does have things to say about the nature of chat shows and what they do in our culture. No ones setting out to criticize religion.
Donohue said he doesnt expect to halt next weeks performances and isnt calling for government censorship he recognizes the producers have a First Amendment right to stage the musical. But he said he fears that if he doesnt call attention to the shows racy subject matter now, Jerry Springer: The Opera might eventually seek a home on Broadway, just as it did unsuccessfully in 2004 before financial problems killed the shows chances. Foster denied that Jerry Springer was using Carnegie Hall as a stepping stone to Broadway.
Said Donohue: This kind of art is nothing but hate speech and has no legitimate role to play in any venue in New York City.
Joseph Davis, a Catholic who works in Manhattan and lives in New Jersey, agreed.
I just think even if youre not Christian, if youre Jewish or Muslim, you shouldnt accept this type of religious bigotry because it certainly wouldnt be accepted if it was a play or production that was offending Jews or Muslims.
-- Ryan Chatelain
The opening segment of the opera, via YouTube.