Text substitutions in high school musicals (should shows be cleaned up when performed by kids?)
Last Edit: Chromolume 01:41 pm EDT 05/18/23
Posted by: Chromolume 01:32 pm EDT 05/18/23
In reply to: Censored high school musicals (should shows be cleaned up for kids?) - TheBroadwayMaven 12:03 pm EDT 05/18/23

Avenue Q: The song “The Internet is for Porn” becomes “My Social Life is Online,” which makes a completely different point. Given that schoolchildren are fully aware — too aware — or the existence of internet pornography, I’m not sure the change is necessary.

The change is absolutely necessary (though I think "My Social Life Is Online" is a terrible rewrite, and just not funny enough as a replacement). Just because kids are aware of pornography doesn't necessarily mean that in any given situation they can comfortably sing about it in front of parents, teachers, adult guests, younger children, etc. Sometimes it's not so much what they know or don't know as it is about how it's presented, and to whom. Perhaps there are schools that would feel they can do it - but I would suspect that many don't. I think one mere mention of cocaine may pass much easier - but a whole song about porn? I think it's wise that the option is there.

And sometimes, references are left alone. With Les Miserables being the show that started the official "school edition" series, it should be noted that "even stokers need a little stoke" is still there, as is Madame T calling her husband a "lifelong shit" (even though I've known of productions where that word has been changed or left out, though without an option provided by the authors to do so).

And, sometimes, lyrics are changed for the worse, presumably without the writer's input. Some of us will remember the amazing "Wall To Wall Sondheim" presented in 2005, which opened with a performance of Into The Woods Jr. At the time I was unaware that the Witch's Rap was not part of that version - but they did present it - assumedly with permission?? But when it came to "he was robbing me, raping me," it became "he was robbing me, harassing me." And my mind immediately went to the idea that that was a terrible word choice, and that Sondheim certainly hadn't suggested it. (I still don't know who did.) The use of "rape" in conjunction with the stealing from the garden (the root of the word from "rapere" - to steal) does not really involve anything sexual, at least on the surface - it's not what Sondheim was getting at. So the automatic substitution of "harassing" just has the wrong sense. I have to think it was substituted without a real look at the lyric's context. (I might have gone with "ruining me" - which can fit rhymically and also has the "r" alliteration intact. I don't know what Sondheim might have suggested, but I'd like to think he might have considered that one.)

I'm currently doing a production of Head Over Heels - School Edition. (Really fun, btw.) I have to say, the funniest substitution I've found isn't in the spoken/sung text, but in a tempo marking in the score. There's a running joke in the show with the recurring hook of the song "Skidmarks On My Heart." In the school edition, the tempo marking is "Really Fast Punk." In the Broadway version, that marking is "Really Fucking Fast Punk." Gotta love that change. :-)

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Next: re: Text substitutions in high school musicals (should shows be cleaned up when performed by kids?) - KingSpeed 06:34 pm EDT 05/18/23

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