New Hampshire High School Cancels Planned Production of Sweeney Todd Due to Nature of Show

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
28 Mar 2014

School officials at Timberlane Regional High School, located in Plaistow, NH, have canceled the school's planned production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Tony Award-winning musical Sweeney Todd, citing concerns over the nature of the story, according to Boston-area newspaper the Eagle Tribune.



Superintendent Earl Metzler said, "I want an all-inclusive performance that the community can enjoy… We were uncomfortable with the script and agreed that this was not the right time or place for the performance… We felt there were parts in there that just weren't acceptable. We shared that with the group and decided to look for a performance which was more suited for the community."

The musical, which took home eight 1979 Tony Awards — out of the nine it was nominated for — centers on a barber who, after getting out of prison, seeks revenge through murder and, alongside his accomplice Mrs. Lovett, bakes his victims into meat pies.

The school, however, planned to stage the school edition of Sweeney Todd, licensed through Music Theatre International. According to MTI, "This special School Edition has been masterfully adapted, working directly with Mr. Sondheim, to retain the dark wit and grand scope of the original work, with a few lyric and key changes to facilitate high school productions."

The announcement to stage Sweeney came after last year's performance of Les Misérables. But, after a six-month, decision-making process, principal Donald Woodworth, director of secondary education Scott Strainge, theatre director Eric Constantineau and music director Anthony DiBartolomeo put a stop to Sweeney Todd March 24.

Students responded with a Facebook page in protest, but were requested by the administration to take it down. A private group, entitled "Friends of Sweeney Todd, transparency and free expression at Timberlane," was then created by Randall Mikkelsen of Plaistow, a parent of a Timberlane graduate. The group currently stands at 190 members.

"There were things that were written which were beyond disrespectful and rude, as well as illegal," Metzler told the Eagle Tribune of the initial Facebook group. "It crossed the line. It's not about free speech. Those students are free to let us know what they feel about things. But it does not give them the right to be rude and disrespectful."

Principal Woodworth and Facebook group administrator Mikkelsen have not yet responded to Playbill.com's request for comment.

In winter 2013, Trumbull High School in Trumbull, CT, cancelled a production of Rent: School Edition, but — after pushback from the community and support from the students' parents — the production went on as scheduled.