High schoolers previously performed "The Music Man" back in the spring of 2005

Atmika Iyer - Opinion Editor

Drama students petition spring musical choice

Students call for a change of musical

August 29, 2018

(article revised 31 August, 2018)

Student drama members have started a petition to change this year’s spring drama production from “The Music Man” to “Heathers.”

Principal Kevin Buchanan says students have named several reasons they would prefer to avoid “The Music Man.”

“There are a couple of lines in some of the songs that the students feel are outdated, the racial undertones [and] the sexual undertones,” Buchanan said. “But I think the main reason is that they feel that the available talent pool of students who could perform the musical is more suited to another production than it is to ‘Music Man.’”

According to an anonymous Oak Park High School student who started the petition, one of the major reasons why “The Music Man” is being protested is the musical’s alleged “sexist” nature.

“‘Music Man,’ is known to be a sexist musical. However, this is not surprising from a show set in the early 1900s. The question is whether or not we want this to be displayed in our theater. The most known number, ‘Shipoopi’ is demeaning towards women,” the student wrote on the petition site. “This is bad enough until you listen to it and hear a line about sexual assault: ‘squeeze her once when she isn’t looking, if you get a squeeze back that’s fancy cookin.’’ In the age of ‘Me Too,’ the sexual assault awareness movement, this is NOT okay.”

However, according to Buchanan, the performing arts department does not “shy away from controversial subject matter.”

“We did ‘Cabaret,’ ‘Evita,’ ‘Chorus Line,’ all of which have sexual content and some of them are politicized. So, I believe that the arts, in terms of performing and even literary and creative arts … that’s what they deal with,” Buchanan said. “They deal in issues and ideas that are sometimes controversial.”

According to senior Samantha Heller, the main problem with performing “The Music Man” is a shortage of female roles.

“I have no concerns with the play itself. ‘The Music Man’ is an amazing musical with a great story, score, and characters. My concern with the show is that it does not best display the talent we have at Oak Park,” Heller wrote to the Talon “The drama department mostly consists of girls and very talented girls at that. The music man has a primarily male cast with primarily male solos.”

Buchanan said “The Music Man” is officially set as the 2018-19 school musical, and it is too late change the production.

“[We have] definitely decided that this will be the play, it was done last year. I’m not sure if I’ve signed the contract with the publishing house or ‘Music Man,’” Buchanan said. “There’s a point where we can’t go back. We’ve already paid for the rights, paid for the costumes, the kids have started to work on their parts. And we probably won’t change the lyrics in the songs — most of these licenses require you to perform the play as written.”

Heller wrote that while she may not agree with the chosen production, she still intends on participating and enjoying herself with her fellow actors.

“My understanding is that the Music Man has already been decided and paid for. Regardless of my efforts and beliefs, I still plan to participate in the production and work hard to make it the best it can be,” Heller wrote. “Although I would prefer that there were more opportunities for the girls in our department to shine, I believe that all will get by and still have an amazing time. I have no doubt that no matter the outcome, ‘The Music Man’ or ‘Heathers,’ all cast members will do everything they can to put on a good show and have fun.”

Retraction: The print edition of this article was published Aug. 30. The original headline and article stated incorrectly that OPPAA was involved in the petition. According to Jennifer Orriss, OPPAA president, “OPPAA did not start or even endorse the petition.”  Additionally, the Talon wrote that there were student members of OPPAA. This is also incorrect. OPPAA is a parent organization that provides fundraising and volunteers for the drama program and does not select plays or musicals.


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