Minneapolis Musical Theatre’s area premiere production of Jerry Springer: The Opera is trashy, brash, and loud. In short, it’s exactly like watching The Jerry Springer Show, and for the most part, it’s great. The Jerry Springer Show has all but disappeared from quotidian consciousness, and it’s a pleasure to have the show's namesake back.
The show, as its title suggests, is through-sung, beginning with a song that sounds more appropriate for a church choir and digressing into gutter-language arias and faux-lieder that only classically trained singers could pull off. Of course, not all the characters get pretty ballads, and there are plenty of pop-inspired chords. Songs like “Talk to the Hand”—sung by a transvestite caught in a love triangle with Peaches, Peaches’ best friend, and her insensitive fiancé—and “Mamma Gimme Smack” (imagine two adults, one dressed in a diaper, the other, Baby Jane, in a Shirley Temple-esque wig, begging to be spanked) bring out the best Middle America has to offer.
Kim Kivens, who plays both Peaches and Baby Jane, lends her lyric soprano and wide-eyed comic timing to her roles. Christine Karki plays Shawntel, a wannabe stripper with a booty deadly enough to demolish U-boats. Her performance is a leopard-print wearing tour de force. Director/choreographer Steven J. Meerdink revels in the raucousness of it all, encouraging his performers to sing well but otherwise behave like amateurs, the kind one might find, say, on a lowbrow talk show. The sets, designed by Andrea Heilman, are both plain—four nondescript chairs on a small platform—and over-the-top. Satan’s lair (where act two takes place) features those same chairs burnt to a crisp and skull graffiti galore.
The plot is flimsy, but that’s neither here nor there. The first act serves as an excuse to have a bunch of white trash sing their woes. The second act, which finds a recently shot Jerry caught between Satan’s personal drama and Jesus’s petulant stubbornness, is pointless and a little boring, even with a climactic scene featuring a Satan-Jesus-Mother Mary-Adam-Eve-God smackdown.
The only other thing to know ahead of time is that the f-word is used merrily and copiously, with the “c” word thrown in about six times for good measure. How long does it take to tire of the shocking language and repeated references to cocaine? Exactly twenty-three minutes. The authors of the show could have used urbandictionary.com to come up with some raunchier rhymes. Other than these minor complaints, there’s not a night at the opera that gets grander than this.
Jerry Springer: The Opera runs through October 28 at Hennepin Stages.