Maybe Stone should direct that Springer opera

Some weeks, pop culture is stranger than fiction: • The Guardian reports on a harmonic convergence of weirdness known as Jerry Springer: The Opera:

BBC director general Mark Thompson has defended its decision to screen controversial musical Jerry Springer -- the Opera, saying "as a practising Christian" he did not find it blasphemous.

Mr Thompson was speaking for the first time about the hit West End show, which is due to air on BBC2 tomorrow night and has generated more than 20,000 complaints. Critics have complained that the show features 8,000 swear words and portrays Jesus in a nappy admitting he is a "bit gay".

. . . But the BBC has so far held firm, and received the backing today of the show's star, David Soul, who is also a Christian.

"Believe me, this show would never have got to where it is today if it was simply about blasphemy and bad language," Soul told Radio 4's Today programme. "I'm a Christian and I certainly don't see it as blasphemy at all." Soul, who came to fame in the '70s as one half of TV cop duo Starsky and Hutch, accepted some people would be offended but said they could always turn off their televisions. "We have a right to enjoy the kind of quality entertainment that Jerry Springer is."

The award-winning musical, co-written by Lee and composer Richard Thomas, is based on Springer's infamous daytime talk show. The musical, seen by more than 500,000 people in the West End, features a diaper fetishist confessing all to his true love, a tap dance routine by the Ku Klux Klan and Jesus and the Devil in a swearing tirade against each other. The bishop of Manchester Nigel McCulloch, the Anglican church's spokesman on broadcasting, has also expressed concerns about the show. "My worry is that this programme is a major departure from the current high expectations of viewers regarding offensive material on a publicly-funded public service channel," he said.

• Safely out of the country for the U.K. premiere of Alexander, director Oliver Stone is free at last to reveal the insidious forces (other than hundreds of non-fundamentalist movie critics) who destroyed that film's box-office potential:

He says: "Americans don't read about ancient history like the Europeans. And in America there is a raging fundamentalism and morality.

"From day one the Bible Belt people did not show up because there was one phrase throughout the media and that was 'Alex the gay'.

"So you can bet you're a*s the Americans aren't going to see a war hero who in their heads has something wrong with him.

• Harvey Fierstein talks with Jesse McKinley of The New York Times about playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof:

Q. Are you generally religious?

A. No, but I am Jewish. I was brought up in a home where my father spoke Yiddish, but we were High Holy Day Jews -- and I'm not a High Holy Day Jew at all now. I'm of the community, not necessarily of the religion. But this has really brought out the Jew. I mean, I don't believe in God, I don't believe in heaven or hell, but I pray three or four times a day.

Q. Has your praying increased during rehearsal?

A. Only when I forget a line. You know how they say there are no atheists in the foxholes? Well, there's no atheist at the Minskoff either.

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