Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Rent” has been met with controversy as it made its way from the professional stage to the amateur.
Most recently, in Trumbull, Conn., a production of the “school edition” of the show, with one song, “Contact,” omitted and some of the language toned down, was canceled by the principal who said he felt it was inappropriate for high-schoolers and that the school community needed to be prepared before it could watch a musical that dealt frankly with homosexuality in the age of AIDS.
He later suggested the production be postponed and then relented under a torrent of national media scrutiny. The show will go on later this month.
No such outcry accompanied the announcement by Ardsley High School director Flori Doyle that Larson’s musical of new Bohemians would be staged here in Westchester.
Ardsley isn’t doing the school edition — the flyer for the show clearly states that this is “the original Broadway show version not recommended for young audiences due to mature themes and language.”
“Contact,” which is a steamy sexy, well, bedroom number, is in Ardsley’s show, and, Doyle says, has been “modified.”
“No student ever has to say or do anything they are uncomfortable saying — and 90 percent of all kids are comfortable saying anything,” she says.
Doyle sees the inherent value in the musical’s message.
“It is a culturally iconic piece of theatre with an emphasis on community — and kids love that,” she says.
She invited representatives from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS — education director Joe Norton and social media manager Josh Blye (Ardsley ’02) — to visit to talk to the cast about the time in which the musical is set.
“My seniors were BORN the year the show opened on Broadway,” she says.
The visit hit home for senior Matthew Moody, who plays Tom Collins.
“They told us about the real desperation of what life was like back then,” he says. “People could barely pay rent and people were dying of AIDS and there was a real stigma associated with AIDS. People were saying it was God’s punishment on gays. I think them coming here allowed us to put ourselves into the musical.”
How far is Ardsley from Trumbull?
Doyle says Ardsley’s principal, Dr. James Haubner, appears in the show.
Here’s the Running Lines video I shot in Ardsley. Enjoy.