Jerry Springer: The Opera

Jerry Springer: The Opera is not fit for polite company. Fortunately for us, New Stage Collective knows their audience. When Alan Patrick Kenny began dress rehearsals, I imagine they started something like this:

“Are we ready to go? Tap dancing Klansmen? Check. Guy in mullet? Check. Self-pitying God? Check. Bizarre and questionable wig sequence? Check. Alright, let’s get started!”

With everything in place, the meat of the show emerges. Breathtaking vocals performed by a menagerie of some of Cincinnati’s finest talent fill the intimate New Stage Collective theatre, peppered with expletives and slurs. It’s quite an experience to hear the “F” bomb sung with such operatic reverence, and the cast nailed almost every moment.

Nick Rose is spot on as controversial talk show host (and former hometown mayor!) Jerry Springer. Rose has clearly studied his subject, as his embodiment of the character is complete. From the eerily accurate voice to the body language, his portrayal never seems like an imitation – he simply becomes Jerry Springer.

In Act II, Michael Shawn Starks is charming and arrogant as Satan. You’d want to wipe the smirk off his face if he didn’t wear it so well. Starks pulls some very impressive vocal runs with a certain expletive, building to a showdown with a half-naked Jesus.

Throughout the show, Beth Kirkpatrick’s powerful, flawless vocals soar, and you understand why she has found success in New York. Kera Halbersleben manages to make a bizarre sexual fetish endearing as Baby Jane, really owning her moments in the spotlight.

The only thing that really gives me pause is the closing number, when the entire company comes out in sandy brown wigs. My guess is that these are supposed to be Springer-like, but it comes off as more tacky than slick and fun. It simply doesn’t jive with the rest of the show.

Much praise to Michael P. Hamilton for outstanding musical direction. The music is the heart and soul of this show, and Hamilton has offered up a beautifully crafted presentation.

The strength in NSC’s production is that it doesn’t try to pretend it’s something that it’s not. Moments which border on poignant quickly pull back just in the nick of time, keeping the mood oddly upbeat. Just as one must suspend disbelief when watching Jerry Springer on television, so must one when watching him on stage.

Jerry Springer: The Opera is running now through August third. Final thought? Have your Jerry Springer Moment.