Parents Want to Silence High School Musical

Amity High School is performing Sweeney Todd, about a barber who kills customers.

By Josh Chapin
|  Tuesday, Mar 12, 2013  |  Updated 8:01 AM EDT
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Parents and residents for and against the upcoming adaptation of Sweeney Todd at Amity High school in Woodbridge gathered at the board of education meeting to speak about the pros and cons of putting on this show.

Parents and residents for and against the upcoming adaptation of Sweeney Todd at Amity High school in Woodbridge gathered at the board of education meeting to speak about the pros and cons of putting on this show.

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Sweeney Todd is a Tony-award winning Stephen Sondheim musical and one that Amity High School students plan to put on this spring, but some parents feel it is not age-appropriate for high schoolers.

In Tim Burton’s 2007 film, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," Johnny Depp plays an English barber who kills his customers with a straight razor and processes their corpses into meat pies all for revenge.

Amity is a regional school district for Bethany, Woodbridge and Orange and some people in the communities are concerned about the violence Sweeney Todd depicts, especially after the school shooting in Newtown.

“What are the sort of images, ideas, values that we want to celebrate and champion?” Leticia Hashem, a parent who feels it’s too violent, asked. “The entire plot is filled with darkness. The macabre. Murder.”

“We have a responsibility and a duty to protect our children and youth from those influences that can have a detrimental affect on their developing minds and moral compass,” Reverend Ann Ritonia, a pastor in Orange, said.

Nearly 100 students are working on this production, including Ann Beadle's daughter, who is still taking part in the musical.

“I'm not sure it was the best choice, in my mind. We're just here to hear each other out, not to protest,” she said.

Beadle, along with 10 other parents and educators, spoke to the school board on Monday night during a meeting at Amity High School.

Many had positive encouragement.  “We are talking about art. Sweeney Todd goes back 150 years,” Garrett Stack, a former educator, said.

“The themes of Sweeney Todd are not murder and cannibalism and rape. They are actions,” Howard Sherman, a theater consultant and Amity High School alum, said. “The theme of Sweeney Todd is about the uselessness of revenge.”

Supt. John Brady said this is the sixth most frequently performed musical in high schools across the country.

Even Newtown High School performed the musical last spring, he said, and linking it to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a stretch.

“Our kids here want to be challenged. This is a challenging musical. The music itself is challenging,” Brady said.

The school has five performances scheduled, starting April 5.

The superintendent said they are nearly 80 percent sold out and have raised a considerable amount of money.

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