‘Jerry Springer — The Opera’ star Terrence Mann on his latest ‘strange’ show

From “Les Miserables’” Inspector Javert to “Beauty and the Beast’s” Beast and Dr. Frank N. Furter in “The Rocky Horror Show,” three-time Tony nominee Terrence Mann has had his fair share of larger-than-life roles. Now, he can add Jerry Springer to his list.

“Jerry Springer — The Opera,” the satirical musical portrait of the iconic TV host, was a big hit in London 15 years ago, but a planned Broadway transfer failed to materialize. Not counting a 2008 concert version at Carnegie Hall, The New Group’s Off-Broadway production marks its New York debut. We spoke to Mann about what it’s like to play the star.

Tell us about the show.

It’s been a trip — way out there. It’s a piece of satire that has a lot of heart in it. I really love this role. It’s an actor’s dream in a way. You get to sink your teeth into some strange stuff but still be a human being and pass on that simple thing that an audience wants: to care about what the experience has been.

How familiar were you with the show?

I knew it existed and that it had been on the West End and won all the Olivier Awards. After I got cast, I watched the West End production [recording] and I was like, wow, what is this? It was compelling. It drew you in, in such a strange way.

Is it fair to call it an opera?

I think it was originally more operatic in style and content, and over the years, it’s morphed into more of a hybrid of opera and musical theater. But that’s the brand. That’s the name. It fits the sort of Shakespearean epic experience as well.

How do the Off-Broadway and West End productions compare?

It’s completely different in a couple of ways. The original was huge, with performances by a lot more people. That’s the sense of opera you got. With our production, you are in a small Off-Broadway black box we’ve turned into Jerry Springer’s studio-esque environment. So the audience is literally a part of the experience. It’s almost like being onstage because it’s so close. But all the music is still there.

What’s your take on Jerry Springer, the man?

I had the good fortune to work with Jerry Springer back in 2001 in “Rocky Horror.” [Springer did a brief stint as the show’s narrator.] He’s really nice and smart. He’s a business man and a politician. He gets it. He knows exactly who he is and what he’s doing and he makes no apologies. I appreciate that. Every night before I go on, I watch a bit of Jerry’s intros, just to get that essence of him. He’s nonjudgmental and he’s sincere all the time. He never condescends to these folks. So that’s what I kind of hang on to and what I try to perform.

‘Jerry Springer – The Opera’ runs through March 11 at the Pershing Square Signature Center. 480 W. 42nd St., thenewgroup.org.