NEW YORK - Jerry Springer is all over the map.
"I'm in the London Hotel in New York doing Chicago," he says over breakfast in the coffee shop off the lobby.
The itinerary continues to expand tonight when he comes to Philadelphia to perform six shows at the Academy of Music in the evergreen Kander-Ebb musical Chicago.
That's right. Springer, the Nero of TV talk shows, the Davy Jones of lowbrow, is doing legitimate theater.
It's official. You have now seen everything.
Actually, Springer is the latest in a long line of unlikely celebrities - among them Alan Thicke, Huey Lewis, and George Hamilton - to play grandstanding attorney Billy Flynn in the play set in the 1920s.
After seven weeks in the role in London's West End, he just wrapped up a three-week Broadway engagement and is joining the touring company for brief runs here and in Atlanta.
Producers of the show, which this summer became the longest-running revival in Broadway history, reached out to Springer's agent after seeing him hoof on Dancing With the Stars in 2006.
As they waited for working space amid Springer's TV commitments, another important qualification somehow slipped through the cracks: Nobody had checked on whether he could sing.
"I'm in London and the phone rings," Springer says. "And the man says, 'I'm with Chicago. I'm a little embarrassed about this, but would you mind coming down to the [rehearsal] studio this afternoon? We'd like to hear you sing.'
"I said, 'No one has even bothered to question that until now?' And he said, 'We all thought someone else had asked.' "
As it turns out, he can carry a tune - even if he bumps its head on the floor several times during the conveyance. But who better to belt out a song like "Razzle Dazzle"?
Still, it took a certain amount of chutzpah to accept the gig. But how often does a redeeming opportunity like this come along?
"My family talked me into it," he says. "My wife, my daughter, my sister, they all said, 'Finally, something we can be proud of.' "
His loved ones, generally speaking, try to ignore his day job as the ringmaster of TV's most raucous Roman circus.
"About a year and half ago, my wife, Micki, called in the middle of a show - which never happens," Springer says. "The producer stops the taping and says, 'You have a call from your wife.'
"I got on and said, 'What happened? Is everything all right?' She said, 'She raised her blouse!' I said, 'What are you talking about?' She says, 'I'm watching your show. I can't believe she just raised her blouse. Is that what they're all talking about?' "
The Mrs. had stumbled across an episode of The Jerry Springer Show on the air and caught an audience member flashing the camera.
"Nineteen years I've been doing the show," he marvels, "and except for that one time, she's never even seen it. Can you imagine?"
Although Springer had no idea what he was getting himself into with Chicago ("I've never been in a play, not even in high school"), he's never been one to shrink from a challenge.
"He did what we asked him to do and he did it beautifully," says the show's producer, Barry Weisler. "Billy Flynn's job is to keep the motor of the show going, and Jerry does that admirably."
When he hit the stage for the first time in London, Springer didn't have butterflies in his stomach - he had fruit bats.
"That first night, I was physically frightened," he says. "I'm used to being in front of a crowd. But singing and dancing?"
His jitters were amplified by the showstopping nature of Billy's first number, "All I Care About."
"I come bounding down the steps and break into song. Hello, world," he says. "You can't get a grander entrance in theater."
The project has given him considerable respect for stage performers.
"These are the most talented people I've ever been around in the business," he says. "You don't have to be talented to be on television. Some are, but you don't have to be.
"You don't have to be talented to be in the movies. Lots of people are but you don't have to be. You can do the take 27 times, if need be. But when you're on stage, you have to do the act live. No second takes. It's almost embarrassing how good they are."
Maintaining his TV show and his stage work has taken some juggling. He does not perform as Billy on Mondays because he is taping three episodes of his TV program in Connecticut. After nearly two decades taping in Chicago, The Jerry Springer Show just moved its production facility to Stamford to take advantage of the Nutmeg State's hefty tax incentives for TV and film projects.
On Tuesdays, he tapes two more episodes, and then hustles to make curtain time.
As an inveterate ham, Springer is basking in his theater experience. But he's unlikely to repeat it.
"I'm 65," he says. "It's not a career move."