Friday, March 7, 2014

THERE, RIGHT THERE!  My 2014 tour of regional high school spring musicals with the girls will begin this weekend with Tina Fey's alma mater's production of Legally Blonde, which I hadn't realized would be quite such a controversial transfer to the educational arena. In Loveland, Ohio,  a school's musical director was fired in 2012 for her production:
Students were permitted to finish the run of Legally Blonde (which received standing ovations after each performance), but Hansen was ultimately reprimanded by the administration, she says, for "going against the school's code of conduct." Kloesz, according to Hansen, cited "bootie-bounce dance moves" and the use of the word "skank" in the script. Loveland, along with most schools across the U.S., has a strict no-alcohol policy, and Hansen was cited for a scene in the musical that includes a champagne party involving a group of buttoned-up Harvard University students. She pointed out that it was not staged as a rowdy college party. 
Officials were careful about negatively characterizing the courtroom scene "There! Right There!" (also known as the "Gay, or European" moment), according to Hansen, who noted that the school has an LGBT club. "That issue was brought up to me verbally, but was not in any written paperwork," she said.
Hansen said she was shocked by the administration's negative reaction to Legally Blonde after the school produced the full version of Grease in recent years, as well as Beauty and the Beast last spring "with a huge tavern scene and beer mugs." Students also used real cigarettes as props during a scene in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. "I didn't hear any complaints," Hansen recalled, noting that the Loveland High production of Grease, which includes drinking, smoking, sexuality and teen pregnancy in its script, had higher ticket sales than Legally Blonde
...The musical's Tony-nominated writers, including composer Laurence O'Keefe, lyricist Nell Benjamin and book writer Hach sent the following words to "We have no idea what the superintendent's statement means. We are surprised and disappointed that an educator who put on a show about a woman succeeding through education was fired for it. Any show that tries to be smart and funny may offend some people, but Mrs. Hansen and her students looked beyond that and saw the positive message of tolerance and female empowerment at the heart of the show. We only wish the school administration had done the same. We applaud the parents and students who supported Mrs. Hansen."


  1. Genevieve10:03 AM

    A high school that is fine with Grease (uncut version, apparently) but thinks Legally Blonde is a firing offense? Yikes. (Not that I think Grease is unsuitable for high schools, just that it has considerably more potentially problematic material than Legally Blonde, if people are [ridiculously] determined to find that material problematic for 14-18 year olds.) I hope the musical director ended up somewhere good, but I'm sorry to hear her kids are still at that school.
    Be interested to hear how your girls like Legally Blonde and the other high school shows you take them to!
    Meanwhile, I highly recommend reading Drama High, by Michael Sokolove. Very well written story of Truman High School in Levittown and Lou Volpe, who made that school's theater program one of the best in the country (they were the test program for school versions of Les Miz, Rent, and Spring Awakening).

  2. Marsha12:52 PM

    I had the same thought. I feel like half the shows I did had plastic champagne glasses as props.

  3. bellawilfer3:21 PM

    Thirded. That's ridiculous.

  4. Emily W6:01 PM

    What schools/productions are you seeing? (4-year veteran of Cheltenham Music Theater here)

    There was a Talk of the Town piece in the New Yorker a few weeks about how the original composer of Throughly Modern Millie rewrote parts of it to be performed at Dalton this Spring, after they threatened to only perform "selections" to avoid some of the more questionable parts....

  5. Adam B.7:18 PM

    Mostly playing it by ear on a weekly basis; as far as I know there is no comprehensive calendar.

  6. Emily W9:43 AM

    I know North Penn is doing Beauty and the Beast (might be right up their alley) the first weekend of May, and Cheltenham is doing Once Upon a Mattress April 10-12 (which is much earlier than when I was in school; we always had our shows the 2nd weekend in May).