'All Shook Up’ show will go on at Herriman High School

Jan 4 2013 - 1:03am

Images

FILE -   Elvis Presley, left, appears in a scene from the movie, "Kid Galahad," in this undated file photo. A parent in a Salt Lake City suburb, who was upset about Elvis Presley songs in a high-school drama, prompted educators to cancel the production, deeming it too sexually suggestive. Presley's song lyrics and a scene suggesting cross-dressing were deemed offensive by West Jordan, Utah, school administrators. (AP Photo, file)
FILE -   Elvis Presley, left, appears in a scene from the movie, "Kid Galahad," in this undated file photo. A parent in a Salt Lake City suburb, who was upset about Elvis Presley songs in a high-school drama, prompted educators to cancel the production, deeming it too sexually suggestive. Presley's song lyrics and a scene suggesting cross-dressing were deemed offensive by West Jordan, Utah, school administrators. (AP Photo, file)

The show will go on at Herriman High School, albeit with content edits.

The Jordan School District found itself in the headlines Wednesday after cancelling Herriman High's plans to produce "All Shook Up," a musical HHS students had been rehearsing since September.

Seems a parent in the Jordan School District expressed concerns about inappropriate content, the district reviewed the script for "All Shook Up" and found content it considered offensive.

So the district, believing the show contract prohibited script changes, pulled the plug and called the rights holders for a refund. That's when the show's owners told the district some edits were possible.

But the Jordan School District's decision to cancel the show still has some in the educational theater community upset.

"It incensed me," said Alyn Bone, a theater teacher in the Davis School District. "I was furious."

Bone now teaches theater at Syracuse Junior High, but the last show she chose and directed at her previous school, Clearfield High School, was "All Shook Up."

"It's a sweet show, and I feel like it's pretty dangerous to pull a show after one complaint. You can find something inappropriate in any play if you look hard enough."

Bone said she has one teacher friend who earlier planned to produce "All Shook Up," but cancelled her plans because of complaints.

"The strange thing is she did 'West Side Story' the year before, and no one complained about everyone shooting each other. I feel like people only have moral complaints on certain types of situations."

The Jordan School District has not revealed the nature of the content it found questionable, but Bone believes she can guess.

"I'm sure the reference to homosexuality is probably the concern, but the musical is about so much more," Bone said. "It's about young people learning to be themselves and having the courage to follow their own dreams."

"All Shook Up," which opened on Broadway in 2005, fuses songs by Elvis Presley with a plot inspired by William Shakespeare's farce, "Twelfth Night." The musical, set in the 1950s, follows Natalie, who longs for adventure. When Chad blows into town with dangerous good looks and a guitar, Natalie decides to go undercover. She dresses as a man and calls herself Ed, hoping to get close to Chad.

Taken in by the ruse, Chad finds himself briefly questioning his sexuality because he is drawn to "Ed."

"It's just a spoof on 'Twelfth Night,' when a girl dresses like a man to get a job in a mans' world, then another boy starts falling in love with 'him,' " Bone said.

The Jordan School District recently changed its policy on how school shows are selected. The new policy came after a March 2012 Bingham High School production, "Dead Man Walking," drew public complaints and the attention of the Utah Eagle Forum, a group that champions conservative causes.

The Jordan District's current policy calls for more parental input on show selections, and a requirement for parental permission before any students may perform in a show that is not on an approved-play list.

Weber, Ogden, Morgan, Box Elder and Davis school districts have no such restrictive drama policies in place, according to representatives from each district. In each district, the drama teacher is required to propose a show, or a short list of shows, to their school principal, or someone the principal approves. After examining the content and facts, a play choice is made.

"Box Elder High has had 'Titanic' and other truly amazing productions," said Terry Jackson, Box Elder assistant superintendant. "To my knowledge, we have never pulled anything after we started because of community concerns. You're never going to please everybody, but we've done some great shows."

Viewmont High School recently appointed a committee of staffers to review show proposals and shorten the list, said Chris Williams, spokesman for the Davis School District. That was more out of a wish for more informed input than over content concerns. School officials even went so far as to ask Weber State University musical theater professor Jim Christian to make the final choice.

"He chose a student version of 'Curtains,' which I'm excited to see," Williams said.

Austin Singley performed in last summer's production of "All Shook Up," at the Centerpoint Legacy Theatre, in Centerville.

"It's a family show," said Singley, 20, of Clearfield. "It's the same story as 'She's the Man,' a family film. As far as I know, we got no complaints at all at Centerpoint. You can't make everyone happy. That's the society we live in. There are always going to be one or two from an audience of 500 who didn't enjoy it."

Alane Schultz, drama teacher at Bonneville High School, sees the Jordan School District's original decision to pull the play as an attack on the arts.

"It sounds like a knee-jerk reaction to what happened last summer," Schultz said. "Theater teachers around the state are upset. I've been teaching for 16 years, and my standard is if the students would feel uncomforable doing something in front of their parents, they shouldn't be doing it on stage.

"Principals trust us, and we are very careful. Letting one parent decide for the majority hurts the students, and it makes our jobs as teachers more difficult."

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