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'Springer' Broadway run in doubt

The musical's star David Soul said he resented the "strong-arm" tactics.
Should a cancer charity accept money raised by a gala performance of "Jerry Springer - The Opera?"
Jerry Springer
Great Britain

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A planned Broadway run of the smash London hit "Jerry Springer -- The Opera" is in doubt after criticism from a Christian group scared off a potential investor, producers have said.

"It has been on and off in America and at the moment it is off in America because of money problems," producer Jon Thoday told CNN. "The Christian 'storm' has not been helpful."

Last April, "Springer" producers announced the production would open on Broadway this fall, although no date or New York venue was announced.

The show has since been targeted by Christian Voice, a UK religious organization that opposes abortion, homosexuality and the European Union.

Last week, Christian Voice convinced a Scottish cancer charity, Maggie's Centres, to turn down £3,000 ($5,760) raised by a charity performance of "Springer."

The production is still planning to tour regional British theaters, although at least one of them -- in Derby, central England -- is having second thoughts.

"This is a blasphemous and a filth-filled production," says Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice.

"This shows the Lord Jesus Christ as a sexual deviant in a nappy, saying that he is a little bit gay, being told to grow up and put some 'f-ing' clothes on by the Jerry Springer character."

The opera mocks guests who appear on the U.S. TV show hosted by Jerry Springer. In the second act, Jerry descends into hell and moderates a slinging match between Jesus, Mary and the devil.

"Springer" opened to rave reviews at the National Theatre in April 2003, and transferred last October for a commercial West End run that ended February 19. The show has won several awards, including best new musical at the 2004 Olivier Awards.

It faced little criticism until the BBC decided to air it in full last month. Nearly 2 million households watched --- and 8,000 complaints were lodged with broadcast regulators.

David Soul, who played Springer in the West End production, has accused Christian Voice of "strong-arm, mob-style tactics" in convincing the Scottish charity to turn down the "Springer" donation.

But Green said his group helped the charity avoid a "potential public relations disaster of profiting from filth and blasphemy."

Jonathan Bartley, a Christian religious commentator who supports the production, says Christian Voice's efforts went too far.

"There was intimidation there. There was a fear, rightly or wrongly on the part of the charity, that their offices would be picketed, that they would lose more funding," Bartley says. "And I think that's when things start to cross the line."

Producers say the show should be seen as an attack on American television, not religion, and vow they will one day take "Springer" to what they see as its rightful place -- Broadway.

CNN's Jim Boulden contributed to this report.

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