It happens with every new school year. So much so, you could bet your life savings on it. Somewhere in America, school administrators and parents will try to censor or shut down a high school theatre production. Take, for instance, these examples:
In December 2012, at Loveland (Ohio) High School, a drama director was fired after her production of Legally Blonde, a musical the school had approved. The administration ultimately said the production was too racy.
South Walton High School in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, canceled their production of Blithe Spirit after community complaints that the play might "encourage exploration of witchcraft and the occult" and undermine 'students' commitments to monogamous relationships.
East 'Guernsey's Buckeye Trail High School(OH) canceled their production of Godspell due to "A breach of church-state separation," said the school administrators.
Most recently, a school in NJ removed all use of swastikas for their production of The Producers. At another NJ school, parents petitioned to have more oversight over what shows are selected due to the "profanity and vulgarity" of Pippin.....f'ing Pippin....
So I have to be honest with you when I say, I've had it.
I've had it with schools and parents saying that they want high school students to perform family-friendly productions. While I agree that high school students might not be best suited to perform songs like "Lovely Ladies," I'll also contend that "by their standards," there aren't truly any family-friendly shows for high schools students to perform.
Let me prove it to you by going down the list of the Tony Award-winning musicals and show you exactly how close-minded schools and parents would oppose them being performed by high school students.
Keep in mind, as ludicrous as these sound; I'm using their reasoning that has been used as justification for censoring shows in the past. Here we go. (WARNING: Contains some spoilers)
1949: Kiss Me, Kate - Glorifies gambling, supports committing adultery("Always True to You in My Fashion") and fornication("Too Darn Hot"). Includes sexual innuendo ("Tom, DIck or Harry") and multiple instances of public displays of affection.
1950: South Pacific - Includes songs that objectify women("There is Nothing Like a Dame"), result in fornication("Younger Than Springtime") and features actors dressed in drag("Honey Bun").
1951: Guys and Dolls - Glorifies gambling and drinking. Features two songs performed by burlesque female characters("A Bushel and a Peck" and "Take Back Your Mink"). Mocks good Christian morals.
1952: The King and I - Glorifies polyamory and lack of undergarments.
1953: Wonderful Town - Includes instances of fornication and drinking.
1954: Kismet - Glorifies religion, the Princesses of Ababu perform a sexual dance, includes a suicide pact and a violent death.
1955: The Pajama Game - Includes characters who are drunk and proceed with public displays of affection. The song "Hernando's Hideaway" has overt sexual overtones.
1956: Damn Yankees - Overt sexually suggestive songs, "Whatever Lola Wants" and "A Little Brains/A Little Talent). The title of the show includes a curse word.
1957: My Fair Lady - Denigrates women, features characters drinking and includes profanity(Come on Dover!)
1958: The Music Man - As NY Post writer Johnny Oleksinski pointed out, features an "unrepentant con artist who faces zero consequences for swindling an entire Iowa town."
1959: Redhead - Glorifies violence.
1960: Tie: The Sound of Music - Includes images of Swastikas.
Fiorello! - Glorifies gambling ("Politics And Poker")
1961: Bye Bye Birdie - The entire show is based around a public display of affection. The Shriners number is overtly sexual.
1962: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying - The character of Hedy LaRue is highly sexualized.
1963: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum - Glorifies slavery, objectifies women.
1964: Hello Dolly! - Denigrates women ("It Takes a Woman").
1965: Fiddler on the Roof - Includes scenes where drinking is taking place.
1966: Man of La Mancha - Features a character who is a prostitute and who is raped.
1967: Cabaret - Overly sexual material, Nazi imagery, homosexual characters. Also includes suggestions of fornication and an abortion.
1968: Hallelujah, Baby! - Includes scenes where drinking is taking place.
1969: 1776 - Includes scenes where drinking is taking place. Contains stereotypes of Southeners.
1970: Applause - Includes gay characters, references drug use in lyrics and features instances of drinking, drug use and fornication.
1971: Company - Scenes that feature drug use and drinking. Includes ambiguously gay scenarios and instances of fornication and profanity.
1972: Two Gentlemen of Verona - Includes sexually suggestive material.
1973: A Little Night Music - Multiple instances of sexual situations including one that is about the planning of having sex("Soon").
1974: Raisin - Includes scenes where drinking is taking place.
1975: The Wiz - Issues usually over whether or not show is predominately black or white.
1976: A Chorus Line - Includes songs with overt sexual lyrics. Includes gay characters and profanity.
1977: Annie - Includes scenes where drinking is taking place and instances of child abuse.
1978: Ain't Misbehavin' - Includes scenes where drinking is taking place.
1979: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - Glorifies violence and has songs and scenes that feature sexual innuendo.
1980: Evita - Contains scenes of underage sex, fornication and profanity.
1981: 42nd Street - Includes scenes where drinking is taking place and implied fornication.
1982: Nine - Sexual suggestive songs and one number that features a prostitute.
1983: Cats - "Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town" is a song about a cat who likes to go to strip clubs.
1984: La Cage aux Folles - Gay characters and characters that perform in drag.
1985: Big River - Use of the "n-word."
1986: The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Includes scenes where drinking and drug use is taking place and fornication is implied.
1987: Les Misérables - Characters that are prostitutes, songs about prostitution(although cut for the "school edition" of the show). Show contains scenes of violence and suicide.
1988: The Phantom of the Opera - Glorifies violence and contains sexually suggestive moments.
1989: Jerome Robbins' Broadway - Contains "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" (from Gypsy) which is about being a burlesque dancer.
1990: City of Angels - Show contains scenes of violence, drinking and implied fornication.
1991: The Will Rogers Follies - It's offensive that this won Best Musical. But it also Includes scenes where drinking is taking place.
1992: Crazy for You - Includes scenes where characters are drinking and appear drunk.
1993: Kiss of the Spider Woman - Sexually suggestive scenes. Gay characters and profane lyrics.
1994: Passion - Sexually suggestive scenes. The show opens with lovers fornicating in bed for God's sake.
1995: Sunset Boulevard - Sexually suggestive scenes. Gay characters and profane lyrics. Also includes gun violence.
1996: RENT - The entire show.
1997: Titanic - Includes scenes where drinking is taking place.
1998: The Lion King - The violent death of Mufasa.
1999: Fosse - Show contains sexually suggestive songs like "Big Spender" (from Sweet Charity) and "Mein Herr" (from Cabaret)
2000: Contact - Show contains sexually suggestive scenes.
2001: The Producers - Show contains sexually suggestive scenes, profanity, gay characters and Nazi imagery.
2002: Thoroughly Modern Millie - Includes scenes where drinking is taking place and fornication is implied. Racist towards Asian people.
2003: Hairspray - Show contains sexually suggestive scenes and characters that perform in drag.
2004: Avenue Q - The entire show.
2005: Monty Python's Spamalot - Show contains sexually suggestive scenes, profanity and gay characters.
2005: Jersey Boys - Show contains sexually suggestive scenes and profanity.
2007: Spring Awakening - Show contains sexually suggestive scenes, profanity and gay characters. Suicide, abortion, basically the perfect storm for parents and teacher to say “No!”
2008: In the Heights - Includes implied fornication, drinking, profanity and rap music.
2009: Billy Elliot - Includes multiple profane lyrics and dialogue.
2010: Memphis - Show contains sexually suggestive scenes, drinking and profanity.
2011: The Book of Mormon - The entire show.
2012: Once - Includes scenes where drinking is taking place.
2013: Kinky Boots - Show contains sexually suggestive scenes, profanity and gay characters.
2014: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - Glorifies violence and features ambiguously gay characters and sexually suggestive scenes. Not to mention a character dresses in drag throughout half the show.
2015: Fun Home - Show contains sexually suggestive scenes, profanity and gay characters.
2016: Hamilton - What is this Hip Hop music?!?!, “Say No to This”
2017: Dear Evan Hansen - Show contains suicide, doing bad things online.
2018: The Band’s Visit - Contains suggested one night stand.
2019: Hadestown - It’s too dark for high school and doesn’t have a happy ending.
As you can see, some of these are more ludicrous than others. Now don't get me wrong, I do believe there is some material that isn't suitable for high school students to perform. But to suggest that schools should only perform family friendly material, as you can see, there is hardly any that would pass their standards without contradiction.
Is there a solution all of this? Probably not. As writers and composers continue to justifiably push the envelope and write about the world we live in, the close minded will always have a problem with it.
Instances of censorship from www.schooltheatre.org