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Originally published Friday, January 3, 2014 at 5:04 AM

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Jerry Springer, King Richard: new shows in Seattle

The new year starts with “Richard II” at Seattle Shakespeare and “Jerry Springer, the Opera” staged by Balagan Theatre and Seattle Theatre Group.

Seattle Times theater critic

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This week, two theaters get the 2014 ball rolling with a Shakespearean tragedy and a trash-TV-inspired opera.

“Richard II” at Seattle Shakespeare Company

The homicidal, cynically witty anti-hero who headlines the Bard’s “Richard III” is far better known than the British monarch at the center of this fascinating drama. But between the two kings, Richard II was arguably the one with the most historical impact.

An ambitious but divisive, authoritarian 14th-century ruler, he was deposed by his cousin Bolingbroke and executed — acts that led (according to the Bard, if not all modern historians) to the dynastic War of the Roses, which inspired some of Shakespeare’s finest historical dramas.

As always, Shakespeare put his own spin on the complex character and reign of his eponymous figure, who on this occasion is played by seasoned classical actor and Seattle Shakes artistic director George Mount, in a staging by Rosa Joshi.

Previews Wednesday-Thursday, runs Jan. 10-Feb. 2 at Center Theatre, Seattle Center (206-733-8222 or

“Jerry Springer: The Opera” at Moore Theatre

Tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan members. Transsexuals, diaper-wearing adults and strippers cheating on their lovers. Surreal parodies of biblical characters.

This hit British musical inspired by the long-running, shock-shlock American TV talk show hosted by a former mayor of Cincinnati is reportedly profanity-laced and wildly audacious, as it skewers sacred cows with such abandon that it’s drawn howls of protest from Christian groups.

For all its wild-and-crazy raunch, the show has also been praised for its inventive theatricality, pop-based musical score (by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee) and its daring in co-opting an aspect of the American cultural sensibility that most “serious” stage artists wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.

Balagan Theatre and Seattle Theatre Group take on the task of introducing it to Seattle. Brandon Felker stars as Springer, and Shawn Belyea directs.

Jan. 10-26, Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., Seattle (877-784-4849 or

Misha Berson:

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