Maybe my favorite is early in Act III. We've set up the whole idea that Jerry is being forced to do a Jerry Springer Show in Hell for Satan, and as this bizarre faux show begins, Satan tells us his sad story in the song "Once in Happy Realms," and it always surprises me with its aching beauty and its depth of feeling, particularly in the able hands and voice of Matt Pentecost, New Line's "Satan." It's not an exaggeration to call it an art song. Look at this lyric:
Once in happy realms of light,
I was transcendental,
Golden and bright.
But I rebelled and was cast down,
Forced to surrender
My celestial crown.
Oh, my crown...!
Then God hurled me from the sky,
Not merciful enough to let me die...
Let me die...
Confounded immortal I,
And pain eternal...
This is not sketch comedy. This is not a joke. As the scene continues, Jerry asks Satan what he wants, and the music turns light, even childlike, as Satan remembers back...
I want it to be just like old times,
With Baby Jesus by my side.
I want my old wings back as well;
I want to get out of this dump called Hell.
But then the music turns dramatic (Springnerian?) again...
But first and most importantly...
I want a fucking apology!
It's not hard to understand Satan's feelings here, particularly when accompanied by Richard Thomas' beautiful, emotional music – and that makes some people very uncomfortable. Which is the point. Nothing is wrong and nothing is right, and everything that lives is holy. Satan is the protagonist of his story (aren't we all?), with Jesus and God as antagonists. That's quite a mind fuck for people who haven't read Milton.
Another really serious moment in the show comes at the end of Montel's segment in Act I, when the humiliated Andrea refuses to leave the stage, and she sings, broken but defiant:
I want to sing something beautiful...
I want to sing something positive...
I want to learn how to dream again,
To feel again...
I wanna stand on top of a hill,
In the arms of my lover,
Bathed in the light of rainbows,
With spring in my heart
And love by my side...
Oh, stay with me, stay with me,
Stay with me, baby...
Stay with me, stay with me,
Stay with me, baby...
And she falls apart, and Steve leads her offstage. It's a really sobering end to a very wild, rowdy segment, and it catches us off-guard. But it also signals to us that there is more than just Springer episodes happening in this show. Her humiliation here is so palpable, her sadness so profound, and this song seems almost like an (unsuccessful) exorcism.
The other very cool moment that often gets overlooked is the Warm-Up Man's solo in Act I, "The First Time I Saw Jerry."
The first time I saw Jerry on TV,
I knew that there was hope for me.
When I saw how he worked the crowd,
I knew that he could help me out.
Before that I was empty inside,
I had considered suicide;
But now I’m a vital member of Jerry's team.
But sometimes I wonder how much he values me...
Foreshadowing! Also, clearly not sketch comedy. Also, some interesting insights into Jerry's audience and his relationship with them. And some more beautiful music to deepen the emotional impact.
As you can see from all my blog posts during this process, those folks are full of shit.
It has been such a privilege working on this magnificent show with this extraordinary group of artists, and getting so much love from our audiences. It's been a wild, wonderful trip, and I'm very grateful...
We begin our last three performances tonight. It will be hard to leave this one...
Long Live the Musical!