An Ohio school district's board abruptly canceled a high school musical production that contained non family-friendly lyrics, an appearance of Jesus, and gay characters, several outlets reported this week.
“When we found out it was canceled, everybody was just heartbroken. Honestly, it was terrible. Everyone was just crying,” Riley Matchinga, a senior playing a lead role in the school's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" told Fox 8.
"The Cardinal Local School District has decided that its spring musical production will not be ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.’ Its dialogue and song lyrics contain vulgarity and are therefore not suitable for our pre-teen and teenage students in an educational setting," Cardinal High School Superintendent Jack Cunningham said in a statement acquired by the same outlet.
Though two of the characters in the musical are gay male parents, the district denies the decision was based on discrimination, the outlet also said.
Middlefield Ohio's Cardinal High School drama department had been working on the spring production for weeks when the Cardinal Schools Board of Education pulled the curtain on it, Geauga County Maple Leaf reported Tuesday.
"Cast members have invested hours of their time in rehearsals, characterization lessons, and group and individual voice lessons. The crew has spent equal time creating and building set pieces, scenery and props. The decision to shut this production down is heartbreaking," Mandi Matchinga told the school board in a letter, as reported by Maple Leaf.
Matchinga is a volunteer assistant director for the musical, a former teacher in the district, and the mother of two participants.
The musical's cancellation caught the attention of award-winning actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, best known for his roles in "Modern Family" and "Ice Age: Collision Course." Ferguson was an original member of the "Putnam County Spelling Bee" Broadway company.
"The message that this sends to them, that that is not 'family appropriate' or 'family friendly,' rather, is toxic and harmful and kind of abusive," Jesse Tyler Ferguson said in an Instagram video shared by Playbill Thursday.
Feguson also told the outlet he and other in the original Broadway cast members are "working on connecting with the [Cardinal High School] cast via Zoom."
The musical's director, Vanessa Allen, told Maple Leaf she was scheduled to meet with Superintendent Cunningham to select a different production for performance in late April or early May.
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