Springer and Flynn do have a thing or two in common. Flynn is the slick criminal attorney in “Chicago” who comes to the aid of murderous housewife Roxie Hart. Springer is an attorney who has spent 19 years in Chicago helming “The Jerry Springer Show.”
In the musical’s final scene, as Flynn delivers his closing argument, Springer said he felt kind of like he was doing his “Final Thought” segment from the show.
“I really do understand how they thought of me,” Springer said. “Even though I’m not personally flamboyant, the character of my show is over the top.”
Springer has journeyed from politician to journalist to cultural icon — from his term as mayor of Cincinnati in the late ’70s to a ballroom dance competitor on Season 3 of “Dancing With the Stars.” But he is best known for presiding over some of America’s greatest dysfunctions each weekday afternoon.
“The Jerry Springer Show” first aired in 1991, a time when every talk show was trying to appeal to the same middle-age housewife demographic, Springer said. He decided to go young.
“Young people are much more open about their lives on the stage,” he said.
Soon, the show’s producers made “crazy” a mandate, he said. “If you call us with a fun, uplifting story, we are not allowed to put you on. We are required to send you to another show.”
But he is not complaining. As much controversy as the show has stirred over the years, it has been one of his greatest blessings. “I always joke saying it is the silliest thing to ever hit television, but I have to be respectful of it. Every opportunity I ever got was because of the crazy talk show,” he said.
That includes his turn on “Dancing With the Stars” and a gig as host of “America’s Got Talent.” “Of all the things I’ve ever done on television ... that is really me,” he said of the those appearances. “Basically, a clumsy schlub. I’m sure that’s how my family and friends see me.”
Theater audiences, however, will not see clumsy. As Flynn, Springer’s first moment on stage is when he comes bounding down the steps singing “All I Care About Is Love.” Nor will they see unprepared. He reads over the script every day to help him avoid drawing a blank. And before the show, he’s all business.
“I’m not fooling around backstage,” Springer said. “I just sit there alone. I really focus on Billy Flynn and get into a zone.”
The experience has helped Springer develop a great respect for stage actors.
“You don’t have to be talented to be on TV,” he said. “On stage, they sing, they dance, they act every night. They can’t miss a step, can’t miss a line. ... These are talented people.”
Springer hopes to blend in with the cast while offering something special in the role of Billy Flynn.
“When the audience walks out, you can feel it if they love the show,” he said. “It is the whole and you are part of the ensemble. If I am Billy Flynn, it has worked.”
“Chicago, the Musical”
Tuesday-Sunday, $20-$67.50. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E. 404-881-2100, www.foxtheatre.org