A local staging of Stephen Sondheim's macabre musical, "Sweeney Todd," is causing a small but significant uproar in Woodbridge, Connecticut this week. A group of local residents and parents of students at Amity Regional High School have banned together to protest the the planned performance of Sondheim's work, claiming the production is too violent for teenagers in their town.
A protester named Laura Carroll added another reason why the musical should not be staged: the December shootings at Sandy Hook. “Amity High School students are assigned and taught to perform the horrific acts of gruesome murder, cannibalism, rape, suicide, etc.,” Carroll writes on the Bethwood Patch site. “Our children and communities are still going through the effects of the Sandy Hook massacre. What is Amity’s message to these children? Amity High School is supporting violence in our community.”
Her post, "Violence Continues at Amity High School," was accompanied by an announcement that parents and community organizers would be arriving at the Amity Board of Education Meeting to protest the "despicable form of education."
Local school superintendent, John Brady, responded to the strong claims made by Carroll in a statement to The New York Times: “As far as I know this protest is about three or four individuals, who made their feelings known on the blog Monday morning, and unfortunately made the decision to link our production to Newtown, " he said. "We are doing ... one of the most produced shows at high schools in the country."
Brady's support of Amity High's production was further backed by theater consultant and Amity alumnus, Howard Sherman, who planned to drive to Connecticut to attend the board meeting and defend the "Sweeney Todd" performance. “The themes of Sweeney Todd are not murder and cannibalism and rape," Sherman told NBC News. "The theme of Sweeney Todd is about the uselessness of revenge.”
In the end, the school held strong on their decision to let the show go on, despite Carroll's statement and her group's attendance at the board meeting on Monday night. In an email to The Huffington Post, Brady stated:"The Board heard from a number of members of the community. Far more speakers voiced their support for the artistic value of Sweeney Todd than against what were termed the 'violent themes' of the musical."
"The give and take was respectful and polite," he added. "The Board took no action. Sweeney Todd will be performed at Amity High School beginning April 5th."
What do you think of the protesters views? Do you agree with Patch contributor Nancy Sasso Janis, who described Carroll's headline on the site as "needlessly graphic and misleading"?
Correction: In an early version of this article, we regretfully misspelled the name of Stephen Sondheim. Apologies to the acclaimed musical theater man for placing a "v" where no "v" should ever be placed.
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