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April 09. 2014 7:59PM

Timberlane Regional High School to offer up toned-down ‘Sweeney Todd’

PLAISTOW — The show will go on at Timberlane Regional High School.

Superintendent Earl Metzler has decided that the high school students can perform a toned-down version of “Sweeney Todd” as next year’s spring musical.

Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” tells the story of a barber who escapes prison and seeks revenge through murder. His accomplice bake the victims into meat pies.

Late last month it was decided that with some of its more sexual and violent themes, “Sweeney Todd” would not be performed as next year’s spring musical.

However, on Wednesday afternoon, Metzler released a statement stating that students will be performing the school edition of “Sweeney Todd” created by Sondheim for Music Theatre International.

“This version includes changes to the script and the song lyrics to tone down the overt sexual references and the use of more gruesome visuals,” said Metzler. “There are also adaptations made to make the play more palatable to the community at large, while remaining true to the underlying themes of injustice and human suffering. And finally, the drama department will provide an opportunity for our drama students to participate in an alternative production.”

In the wake of the administration’s March decision not to perform “Sweeney Todd”, supporters of the play took to social media as well as local newspapers in support of the production.

Last Wednesday, nearly 300 people from the Timberlane Players, the school’s theater company, and other parent and student supporters of the arts spoke during a public forum at the high school in favor of letting the show go on.

Howard Sherman, the former president of the American Theatre Wing, the organization responsible for the Tony Awards, traveled to Timberlane from New York City for the meeting. Sherman said “Sweeney Todd” is about “morality, justice, and the lengths that people are driven to when they face injustice.”

Metzler said he was thankful for input he received from those on both sides and for the respectful tone taken by those involved.

“Having moderated (the public input) session and seeing an overwhelming display of support for the arts, I am pleased to say I am very impressed and am convinced that Timberlane

houses the most respectful students,” said Metzler. “Regardless of which side of the position one finds him or herself, one thing we can all agree on is that our students, as evidenced at this forum, are the very best.”

The superintendent said he believes the Timberlane students will excel in the spring 2015 production of “Sweeney Todd”.

“We live in an age where visual and special effects have become a production’s attraction; not the actors and actresses that pour their hearts and souls into their performances,” Metzler said. “Here at Timberlane, our attraction, our mission and our focus, are our students. I believe that Timberlane’s 2015 production of “Sweeney Todd” will far surpass our previous productions, not because of any script or prop adaptations, but because of our students’ determination to succeed and their passion for the arts.”

Parent Randall Mikkelsen administered a popular Facebook group of supporters of the production of “Sweeney Todd”.

In the wake of the announcement that the production would go on next spring, Mikkelsen stated that everyone should be grateful that the process of open discussion, respectful consideration of all points of view, and focus on the education of the Timberlane students helped everyone come together for a resolution.

aswift@newstote.com


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