EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

April 11, 2014

Editorial: Timberlane theater community can take a bow for 'Todd'' triumph

Let’s give a standing ovation to the passionate theater folks of Timberlane Regional High School.

And we expect much more applause when the Timberlane Players make their curtain call next year when the lights go down, the come back up at the conclusion of “Sweeney Todd.”

Yes, school officials have lifted their ban on the performance of the complex and challenging American musical by the great Stephen Sondheim.

The ban was imposed because some aspects of the dark tale of a barber driven mad by injustice made some officials “uncomfortable.”

A Facebook page was launched where students, parents and others sounded off about the administration’s decision, and more than 400 students signed a petition asking that the show go on.

To their credit, school officials agreed to hold a forum to let the community talk about the issue before a final decision was made. For more than two hours, they listened to students and others talk about why performing “Sweeney Todd” was so important to them and why such a work of art ought to be presented at the high school despite the violent script and bloody spectacle.

“This show challenges us as both students and as actresses,” said student Ben Militello.

“Doing a piece like ‘Sweeney Todd’ would be a highlight in our high school careers,” said junior Ryan Blomquist.

School administrators not only listened to but also heard the students, to the surprise, perhaps, of some.

Superintendent Earl Metzler announced Wednesday that students have been given the OK to perform the musical as their spring 2015 production.

Students will be working from a script and musical book created especially for high school productions that tones down sexual references and some of more gruesome stage effects.

In addition, an additional performance that is suitable for all ages will be performed. This seems like a reasonable compromise between the demands of art and the need to make a public school production accessible to the entire community.

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