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

"You get to sink your teeth into some strange stuff but still be a human being."

Terrance Mann stars in

Terrance Mann stars in "Jerry Springer -- The Opera." Photo Credit: Monique Carboni

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.,

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