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Musicals that are or aren't appropriate for high schools 
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High-baritonne wrote:
I just have to ask.

Why is Rent inappropriate for High Schools? What is wrong with sixteen year olds hearing about sex, drugs, gays, AIDS, and death? I don't see how a show about acceptance, fighting a disease and coping with life is High School inappropriate. If it had not been for the difficulty of the music I would urge High Schools to do this show.

So please explain to me why it is inappropriate for High Schools?


Content. Parents and school boards, mostly in conservative areas, would flip out and start a ruckus. I can't begin to tell you how many articles I've read of high school productions of Rent, even the student edition, being boycotted and eventually shut down. Like you said, US morals are extremely different than in your country. Drug and alcohol references are pretty much unacceptable unless they are completely unavoidable, and sadly, I know for certain my hometown community would be in an uproar if my high school put on Rent, mainly for having homosexual characters. It's sad, but that's just the way it is. Closed-minded.

So I think it's a show that is much more acceptable for college, as I don't think it's really worth all the trouble to put it on in high school and deal with censors, angry parents, etc. Plus, if I were still a high school student, I wouldn't want to perform the school edition of Rent anyway because it is so watered down (I also don't particularly care for the musical, but that's another story). There are many other shows to choose from.


Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:54 am
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I know that if my schoolboard shut down a highschool production of Shakespeare's As You Like It for sexual content, then Rent wouldn't have a chance in hell. I think it's stupid personally, but also probably for the best. The school edition is horrid. And yes, I have seen one too many highschool Mimis and Rogers to be really entranced with the idea.


Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:04 am
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Canadian Drama Geek wrote:
Cabaret*- Maybe it's just that my school is overpopulated with idiots, but I do not see the average highschool student having the maturity to contend with many of the themes. Also, children playing Nazis tend to anger parents, in any context. See The Producers.

Evita*- I have to say that there is little room for other people apart from the four principles to shine in this show, and were I selecting a highschool musical, I would want a wider amount of good characters in the show.


I don't really disagree, but wouldn't you think that if high school students are too stupid to understand the point of Cabaret, then a greater reason to not produce Evita would be that it's much harder to understand the fascist theme of that musical - particularly the not always clear way it is presented?

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Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:36 am
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Good point. :) Most students at my school would probably relate the Perons' way of runing Argentina to the way their parents and operate and treat them at home, which would be a very shallow reading of Evita. :x

I think I ultimately gave Evita a pass because this semester I did Macbeth in my English class, and a lot of the other people there (thankfully) seemed to grasp the implications of the work well enough to write an essay about it. As Evita is basically a watered down and Hispanic version of Macbeth, I felt that perhaps it wouldn't be such a leap to assume that students could take what they learned in English and apply it to a theoretical production.

Of course, I didn't take into account that that was a 'good' English class, and my school tends to lump the 'bad' students in other classes... And often, the 'bad' students are the good actors in the show.


Thu Jun 24, 2010 7:11 am
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Disney-Bway27 wrote:
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (I'm not starring this because the edited "clean" version isn't cheesy at all and still captures the essence of the show)
Sweeney Todd* (I'm not sure about this one...my school's done it, but I'm not familiar with the clean version)


To my knowledge there is no edit of Putnam available. Do you have a link to the licensing page?

The only alternative version of Sweeney Todd is MTI's school edition, and like other school editions, the only thing changed really are the vocals. The story and characters remain unchanged for the most part. Very few songs are cut.

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Fri Jun 25, 2010 5:18 pm
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The only shows on that list that I would consider inappropriate for high school are Company, Camelot and My Fair Lady... mainly because the character dynamics and the emotional complexity of the script is just a bit too much for most inexperienced young actors. These shows require exquisite timing and are extremely difficult for even adult actors to get right.


Camelot could conceivably work if the kids were really talented... however, it would require a strong director who knows what they're doing to help guide them into the roles.


Last edited by LeocadiaBegbick on Sun Jun 27, 2010 8:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Jun 25, 2010 5:46 pm
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ActingDude17 wrote:
Disney-Bway27 wrote:
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (I'm not starring this because the edited "clean" version isn't cheesy at all and still captures the essence of the show)
Sweeney Todd* (I'm not sure about this one...my school's done it, but I'm not familiar with the clean version)


To my knowledge there is no edit of Putnam available. Do you have a link to the licensing page?

The only alternative version of Sweeney Todd is MTI's school edition, and like other school editions, the only thing changed really are the vocals. The story and characters remain unchanged for the most part. Very few songs are cut.


I'm fairly certain there is no licensed, technically legal "clean" version of Spelling Bee. Schools just tend to "fix" what they feel is inappropriate (which is against the law, of course).


Fri Jun 25, 2010 6:29 pm
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I wouldn't say it's the subject matter, but rather a question if the talent is there to do the show justice. Or it could be just that high schoolers don't have as much maturity as college students. It could be either one, depending on what high school wants to do it. But I'd say it's rare to find both in the sense of a high school having both the maturity and talent to pull off a show like Rent.

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Fri Jun 25, 2010 6:59 pm
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Rent is a perfectly reasonable show for a high school to do. The characters are meant to be in their twenties, and Mimi is described in the script as being 19. That's not much of a stretch for a high school student.


Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:27 pm
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Casting believability aside for a moment, since that will apply to musicals besides Rent, I go back to the factors of talent and maturity that can present a problem to a high school wanting to put it on. It would depend on the high school.

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Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:56 pm
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Post Re: Musicals that are or aren't appropriate for high schools
I will only deal with the problematic ones. If I don't mention it here, assume I'm down for high schools producing it.

Cabaret - The content is too raunchy, it deals with themes that are more mature than it's a high school's place to be in on, and most teenagers aren't at a level where they can do justice to the lead roles.

Chicago - Too raunchy.

A Chorus Line - Too much of an envelope pusher, and it encourages the kind of slick, faceless production that I think a high school theatre program does its students a disservice by presenting to them.

Company - Controversial material, plus teens aren't ready to play most characters, especially Robert and Joanne.

Evita - If you want most of the girls in your department 86-ed in the battle to get the one worthwhile female role, be my guest. But this show only meets the casting needs of maybe 0.5% of high school theatre departments.

Gypsy - You're in for angry parents every time, and teens aren't ready to do Rose justice.

Hair - If you're that desperate to push an envelope, I'll put some of my mail on the floor for you.

Jesus Christ Superstar - Same problem as Evita. Not as intense because there are more male roles, so the guys aren't as screwed. Still, all but one of the girls gets screwed unless you make some of the male roles female, and then the script gets screwed. Also, fifteen-year-old voices don't need to be singing the score.

Les Miserables - Vehemently against mega-musicals in a high school theatre department. They teach the wrong lessons about what theatre is and provide less opportunity to master the art.

The Producers - Content issues, as well as the mega-musical problem.

Rent - Same as Hair. I don't pay taxes to the school district so you can create controversy and feel cool for pushing content you shouldn't be at this level. Plus, most teens wouldn't know what they were talking about.

Sweeney Todd - Content.

West Side Story - Only if you can provide dancers that won't embarrass themselves AND not marginalise the students who aren't faceless ensemble-for-life types AND not cast some sexless nancy boy as any gang member or reformed gang member.

And I would add Dreamcoat to the list due to the fact that if you stage it the way it's usually done, it disservices most of the students involved when it comes to casting, and teaches them "mega-musical" values.

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Fri Jun 25, 2010 8:53 pm
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LeocadiaBegbick wrote:
Rent is a perfectly reasonable show for a high school to do. The characters are meant to be in their twenties, and Mimi is described in the script as being 19. That's not much of a stretch for a high school student.

Just because a character is young doesn't mean a teenager has the background to give a valid performance in the role. Besides, the characters in Rent may have twenty-year-old bodies, but their minds and lives have nothing in common with that fact.

There is a reason why actors in their thirties or even forties can routinely find work playing "young adults" - real ones don't have the perspective or life experiences to sell it.

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