'Jerry Springer' musical back on song after reducing costs of production

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The Independent Culture

The West End musical Jerry Springer - The Opera, which was on the brink of closure, has been given a temporary reprieve after negotiations with the production team to slash costs.

The West End musical Jerry Springer - The Opera, which was on the brink of closure, has been given a temporary reprieve after negotiations with the production team to slash costs.

As The Independent revealed this week, poor audience figures in September and a growing legal bill in a dispute with the Daily Mail nearly resulted in the closure of the award-winning show.

But audiences have rallied in the face of the threat, and contractors and the creative team have agreed measures to cut costs in a bid to enable the show to continue at the Cambridge Theatre.

Jon Thoday, the producer, has told the Really Useful Group, the company which owns the theatre, of the decision, but warned that the potential bill for the forthcoming court case against the Daily Mail could still jeopardise the show in the longer-term.

The producers of Jerry Springer - The Opera and the newspaper are due to lock horns at the High Court in December over a claim for damages, understood to be in the region of £440,000. The claim results from an article in the Daily Mail in January in which it claimed the musical was losing money "hand over fist" at a rate of £40,000 a week. The newspaper subsequently withdrew the claim and apologised.

Mr Thoday said: "A final decision as to the future of J erry Springer - The Opera will not be taken until the show's case with the Daily Mail is heard on 13 December 2004.

"In the meantime we would like to thank everyone who has made it possible to continue the run: the creative team, the writers and most importantly the public who are voting with their feet."

The show is the first West End musical venture for Mr Thoday's company, Avalon, which built its reputation managing comedians such as Frank Skinner and Harry Hill.

Discussions on how to save the venture have continued all week. Contractors supplying equipment to the show agreed to cut costs while the creative team, who have a guaranteed minimum royalty in their contracts, have agreed not to take these royalties in weeks where the minimum is not reached. The marketing budget - which can be up to £1.5m a year for a big musical - has been axed.

Jerry Springer - The Opera was written by the comedians Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, who became Mr Thoday's second client after they met and hit it off at the Edinburgh festival in 1987.

The musical is inspired by the cult American chat show hosted by Jerry Springer, in which guests are encouraged to divulge their most scandalous sexual and personal secrets, often concerning affairs and using strong language.

The show began at the Battersea Arts Centre in London, and was performed at Edinburgh, before being snapped up by the National Theatre where it was a sell-out.

It won four awards for best musical, including an Olivier Award, and opened in the West End just over a year ago where it has faced a much tougher time.

The Really Useful Group has tentative plans to bring a touring production of Cats to the Cambridge Theatre if Jerry Springer pulls out. But Mr Thoday said the West End needed new shows to survive and his show has been credited with attracting younger audiences.

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