Birmingham's Hippodrome will be staging the controversial Jerry Springer - The Opera after theatres stepped in to save the nationwide tour.

A 21-town tour looked to be in jeopardy when Arts Council England refused to fund the show and pressure group Christian Voice threatened to picket theatres, forcing almost a third of the venues to pull out. But now regional theatres, including the Birmingham Hippodrome, have struck a deal with producers Avalon to ensure the show goes on.

It will enjoy a two-week run at the Hippodrome, from February 6 to February 18, but management are steeling themselves for protests.

Hippodrome spokesman Rob McPherson said: "We do expect there to be some reaction to this event coming here.

* Jerry Springer - The Opera is coming to Birmingham. Is this a good thing? Click here to send us an email *

"In fact Christian Voice have requested a meeting with us but that's all we know at the moment, so we're interested to hear what they've got to say.

"Jerry Springer -The Opera is a great show, it's received practically every award going and has had excellent reviews, even in religious papers like the Jewish Chronicle and the Catholic Times. Our biggest problem is people are unsure what's going on, whether the show will be staged or not, so we're very pleased to confirm it is coming to Birmingham."

The show's creative team is waiving its royalties and Avalon is investing #650,000 in the tour.

Stuart Griffiths, the Hippodrome's chief executive, said: "The fact that regional theatre has responded so positively illustrates its support for new musical theatre and freedom of expression."

The 22-week tour will now open in Plymouth in January 2006, and the final shows will be staged at the Brighton Dome next June.

Richard Thomas, composer and co-writer, said: "If the tour had not gone ahead, the result would be that investors and producers would become more and more risk averse. This is a freedom of speech issue."

Christian Voice protesters may go ahead with their threat to picket the tour.

The award-winning West End show has already been seen by 425,000 people and was watched by 2.4 million viewers when it was shown on BBC2 earlier this year.

But its controversial content led to a record 63,000 complaints from viewers and protests were staged at regional BBC centres.

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