SPOOF: Hamptons Parents Object to Kids Playing Poor People in High School LES MISERABLES
Playing a part in a high school production of a great Broadway musical is a terrific way for students to learn teamwork, self-discipline and artistic expression. But naturally, not all shows are appropriate for high school students. Recently, BroadwayWorld reported of a New Jersey high school where parents objected to what they saw as offensive language and sexual innuendo in the student production of PIPPIN.
In a clever spoof, Dan's Paper, based in the well-to-do area of Long Island's Hamptons, reports on a group of parents objecting to their local school board about a proposed student production of the classic, Les Miserables.
Not that they mind the references to prostitution, child abuse, unwed mothers and criminals. No, according to Jeannie Knowles of the newly formed group, Hamptons Parents' Voice (HPV), there's a more upsetting issue.
"We've had quite enough of our children being forced to play poor people," she insists. "Our kids have played beggars in OLIVER!, orphans in ANNIE, poor gangsters in WEST SIDE STORY and Oakies in that ill-conceived GRAPES OF WRATH adaptation you tried.'
Despite the school board president's insistence that the show will go on, Knowles argues that embodying the roles of poor and downtrodden "low people" could be harmful to student actors' self-esteem, not to mention their ability to succeed in the future.
"These roles, playing dirty, unwashed, barefoot and pregnant bums-no matter how difficult their circumstances-plants seeds for failure and doubt in our kids. Allowing my son Tucker to become such a person onstage opens the door for him to empathize with them in his real life, and that will certainly not do him any good in the grown-up world."
"Imagine where that would get him should Tucker ever have to gentrify a ghetto and replace homes with a shopping mall or a luxury hotel," she continues. "Empathy for the poor won't do him any favors if he needs to frack farmland or dump toxic waste near a school-and I won't have weakness or doubt poison my legacy."
Knowles' arguments were supported by other parents, concerned for the well-being of their children.
One suggests, "Let other kids, the actual poor kids, play the poor supporting cast while our children subjugate them onstage."
Cameron Mackintosh's production of Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alain Boublil's legendary musical Les Miserables just celebrated its Second Anniversary Wednesday, March 23 at the Imperial Theatre (239 West 45th Street). The current Broadway version of Les Miserables, which will end its acclaimed run September 4, is the only production of the musical currently playing in North America.
Les Miserables currently stars John Owen-Jones as Valjean, Hayden Tee as Javert, Alison Huff as Fantine, Alex Finke as Cosette, Tony Award nominee Gavin Lee as Thenardier, Rachel Izen as Madame Thenardier, Brennyn Lark as Eponine, Chris McCarrell as Marius and Mark Uhre as Enjolras.
Now in its third year on Broadway, this newly-reimagined production of Les Miserables opened on Broadway March 23, 2014 to critical acclaim. The Associated Press raved, "A glorious Les Miserables! This terrific new production is beautifully sung and acted." NY 1 said, "LES MISERABLES is born again. This is as close to perfection as we'll ever get in the theater." And The Huffington Post proclaimed, "This is a Les Miserables for the 21st century! It stirs the audience and rocks the rafters."