By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Last week, I emceed the party for the 3,000th episode of The Jerry Springer Showdisclosure: I was remunerated in ego gratificationmainly because it was a chance to revel in the fact that, unlike most of the show's guests and viewers, I live in a home that doesn't move. Jerry and I had worked together before, at a promo event tied to that Off-Broadway trailer park musical that, no doubt thanks to our efforts, closed a week later. This timeat Home, aptly enoughwe did much better, though Jerry was as self-deprecating as ever, telling the crowd of boozy miscreants, "First of all, I apologize. I ruined the culture. I hope hell isn't too hot because that's clearly where I'm going." I'm actually looking forward to showing off my hot bod all year round. But how punishable should a show be that, however toilety, has inspired a full-scale opera and now a 3-D art piece, CHARLES FAZZINO's Jerry Springer's Wacky World, which happened to be unveiled that very night? Not at all! "It really depicts my life," said Springer as he admiringly surveyed the artwork's panorama of figures from his show and experiences, "which is depressing." But Jerry did finally concede that his mobile-friendly program has actually done a little good. "Now that it's seen all around the world," he said, beaming, "those countries don't want to take us over anymore!"
(By the way, off camera, Jerry happens to be a total pussycat, and one with culture yet. He told me he loves the wit of Countdown With Keith Olbermann, a tidbit that certifies he's got good taste; I'm a regular on the show, and in fact if it were The Love Boat, I'd be CHARO.)
BETH, YOU IS MY WOMAN
Alas, Jerry Springer the Opera never made it to our shoresit always sounded better than the reverse idea, a daytime talk show based on Turandot. But there's The Drowsy Chaperone, about a rumpled queen who sits around playing his old record of Valley of the Dolls, which magically springs to life in his living room. No, wait, that's my story. The Drowsy Chaperone has a rumpled queen playing his old record of a '20s musical called The Drowsy Chaperone, which magically etc., etc. (though he also gushes over the movie of The Music Man and pervily admits, "I had a craving for a young RONNIE HOWARD"). The showas well as the show within the showis cute, clever, and blithely inconsequential, but again, very cute, especially when the record skips or they put on the wrongrecord. At the opening-night party, BETH LEAVELwho's a scream as the title character (or actually, as Dame Beatrice Stockwell playing the title character)told me it's fun to take on two divas. "I bet Beatrice decided the show had to be named The Drowsy Chaperone or she wouldn't do it," she said, laughing. But Leavel, God bless her, made no such ultimatum.
"Shocking News About Jerry Springer!"
La Dolce Musto by Michael Musto
Clubrat Special by Robert Christgau
What to go hear this week
If Tarzan could talk except in ape yelps, he would have demanded the title Tarzan, but they named the new musical such anyway and even gave him star billing and dreadlocks. By any name, I expected to flee this thing midway on a large vine, but I ended up finding it quite watchable in a bizarre Lion KingmeetsCirque du Soleilmeets- Prymate sort of way, complete with shadow puppets, anthropomorphic psychobabble ("You need tough love"), and inter-ape flirtations ("I haven't seen you around here in a while"). Yes, there's a downside. Jane now says "homo erectus" very quickly, I guess so as not to elicit giggles, and her dad's remark about how such an erectus creature would raise his temperature is now mysteriously bye-bye. Also, whenever Tarzan ( JARED LETO look-alike JOSH STRICKLAND) sings, you hear someone warbling harmony offstagemaybe the same guy behind the curtain over at Jersey Boys. And worst of all, this show is that rare birda kazillion-dollar please-buy-the-mug-in-the-lobby Disney musical that's a treatise against "human greed"!
Butyou knew there'd be a but, and not just Tarzan'sit's also an ode to unconventional families. (It's about the glory of apes raising humans, but it could also be read to refer to gays, single parents, or anything I feel like.) Also, the ROSIE O'DONNELL role in the movieTeak the dykey apeis now played by a campy black guy! And the aforementioned Strickland does very well in the impossible task of veering between quadruped and American Idol finalist. You might not go apeshit over this Tarzan, but at least it isn't apeshit.
Revival-wise, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martiala/k/a 20 Angry Menis about whether it's OK to impeach a leader who seems nuts. (Gee, that's not relevant, is it?) Getting fresh air at intermission, I was so delirious that I then went into the wrong theater, the one with JULIA ROBERTS in Three Days of Rain! But even with a Caine ticket stub, I was swept right in, and so was my friend, who couldn't find her stub at all. Hottest ticket of the year indeed! (Fortunately, we realized our boo-boo and went back to the right place, rather than mutiny Mutiny, which actually started revving; even Ross from Friends got better.)