Have you ever gone to see a Broadway show because a celebrity took over a role for a few weeks? I’m guessing some people must have, or shows wouldn’t keep doing it. Jerry Springer, who recently ended a run as Billy Flynn in Chicago in London, tells The New York Times he’s in talks to bring his soft shoe to the Great White Way as early as August. On one hand, it’s a clever idea: Like Flynn, Springer is a trained lawyer associated with a flamboyant personality and “ethical lapses” (meaning, his talk show). But his appearance on Dancing With the Stars, while certainly falling short of proving him a professional hoofer, did allow American audiences to see him as a real person and not just as “Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!” But do you actually want to pay money to see him sing and dance?
Times chief theater critic Ben Brantley took in Springer’s West End gig and wrote that he “sings in a small, conversational, carefully amplified voice that is usually on key.” I can’t blame stars for wanting the once-in-a-lifetime experience of being on Broadway, but I also can’t imagine that real stage actors went through their training hoping that one day, they’d be on a New York stage with someone who is described as “usually on key” and who only rehearsed for two weeks. Am I naive to think that at least some tourists would rather see a top-notch Billy Flynn than have a celebrity sighting to tell their friends about back home? Is it time Broadway stop with the stunt casting, or is it a necessary evil since, let’s face it, I wouldn’t be writing about a veteran show like Chicago right now if there wasn’t a new celebrity name to drop?
What do you think, PopWatchers? Does Broadway stunt casting work? Anyone catch Springer in London and like to offer their review?
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