One year ago, "Jerry Springer, the Opera" (search) was just about the hottest theatrical property in the world.
It was playing to packed houses at the National Theatre in London, theater critics in Britain, Europe and America were hailing it as a bold and ground-breaking new musical, and nearly every significant New York producer was scrambling to grab a piece of the inevitable Broadway production.
But this show hasn't just cooled off — it's gone into deep freeze.
In London's West End (search), where it transferred from the National, "Jerry Springer" has struggled to attract audiences and, after 10 months, is nowhere near to recovering its production costs, theater sources in London say.
More ominously, Allan McKeown, the co-producer of the West End production, has decided against investing in the Broadway version, which is scheduled to open next fall after an out-of-town tryout in February in San Francisco.
McKeown was to have come up with half the money needed to bring "Jerry Springer" to Broadway.
Unless his investment can be replaced fairly quickly, the production will have to be postponed indefinitely.
"Alan decided that it was too expensive," said Jon Thoday, of Avalon Productions, McKeown's co-producer on the show.
The budget for the New York production will be between $11 million and $13 million — almost three times as much as the London version.
Thoday said he's confident he will be able to replace McKeown's money, and that "Jerry Springer" will land on Broadway as scheduled.
Still, he said: "It is a substantial amount of money we have to find. Put my phone number in the piece. We'll be grateful for any help you can give us."
That may not be enough.
Yesterday, several theater producers, some of whom have been asked to invest in "Jerry Springer," said the show's prospects in New York were bleak.
"It's damaged goods now," said one. "It's an open secret that it's not doing well in London. I don't think there is any chance you could get back $13 million in New York."
"Jerry Springer, the Opera" is just that: the "Jerry Springer" show performed operatically.
In the first act, super-size misfits from the trailer park sing about their twisted sexual desires on Springer's television show.
It is outrageous, shocking, hilarious — even, at times, brilliant.
The second act is not as successful. Springer, who has been shot to death by one of his deranged guests, is sent to hell, where he moderates an over-long debate between Jesus and the devil.
"Jerry Springer" was an instant hit with high-brow critics and the elite National Theatre crowd.
But that, in some ways, is its biggest problem: Despite its low-brow subject matter, it's arty.
If it were to run at, say, the Brooklyn Academy of Music for two weeks, you wouldn't be able to get a ticket.
"It does have this high-art thing," Thoday concedes. "But I am convinced that it has a wide audience. It's been harder to reach that audience than we expected, but when they do come, they love it. In London, a lot of Americans are coming to see it, and we are starting to do really well on the holidays."
David Soul (search), of "Starsky and Hutch" fame, is playing Springer in the show now, and Thoday says he is proving to be a draw.
"We went through a bad patch earlier this year — everybody did. But we are now making quite a healthy profit, and there is no doubt that 'Jerry Springer' has a future in the states."