Despite months of planning and a lot of money spent, Ohio’s Cardinal Local School District has drawn the curtain on Cardinal High School’s spring production of the Tony Award-winning musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” due to content the district has deemed “vulgar.”
The musical features gay parents, a Jesus cameo, and a song titled “My Unfortunate Erection,” making it, according to the district, “not suitable for students of all ages.”
In a letter sent to parents on Monday, district officials revealed that the musical production “was not submitted to the Board of Education or district administration for approval.”
On its Facebook page, the Cardinal High School Theater announced on Jan. 9 that it was “DELIGHTED” to announce the production as the second show of the school’s season, calling the musical a “riotous ride, complete with audience participation.”
“Please be advised that after careful consideration our production team has given this production a PG-13 rating due to mild language and inuendo,” the theater added.
“The Cardinal Local School District has decided that its spring musical production will not be ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,'” superintendent Jack Cunningham wrote to parents, according to local station Fox 8. “Its dialogue and song lyrics contain vulgarity and are therefore not suitable for our pre-teen and teenage students in an educational setting.”
Mandi Matchinga was the assistant director for the musical. Her daughter, high school senior Riley Matchinga landed a starring role in the production.
“When we found out it was canceled, everybody was just heartbroken,” Riley said. “Honestly, it was terrible. Everyone was just crying.”
(Video: Fox 8)
“There were concerns about the language in one of the songs,” said Mandi Matchinga. “There was a concern about Jesus appearing in the show and there was a complaint about the fact that two of the parents were gay.”
According to Cunningham’s letter, “The district expects that its student productions constitute a learning experience which contributes to the educational program, and material that is not suitable for students of all ages does not meet this standard.”
“The district plans to have a spring musical production that is appropriate for all of our students,” the letter states.
But Matchinga contends that the district gave the production the green light early in the school year and that the concerns were addressed at a meeting earlier this month with the administration.
Racy dialogue was changed, as were the lyrics to that song, and middle school students who were to be treated with a special performance of the musical were required to have a permission slip signed before attending. The theater department already spent $1,700 on the show, Matchinga said, and there wasn’t time left in the season to license and rehearse another production.
“Theater is about making you think about things and making you question things and thinking critically,” the theater mom said.
She objects to the word “vulgar” to describe the musical, an objection she intends to take up with school officials at the next board meeting.
“Now they’re using the word vulgar instead of family-friendly,” Matchinga said. “What is vulgar? What exactly are the issues you have with this show and can we sit and come to some sort of compromise and agreement?”
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