MARYVILLE, Mo. — Just one day before the Maryville High School production of “Legally Blonde” was set to open, it was postponed based on a decision by school administration with Maryville R-II Board of Education input.
The board discussed the production in an unscheduled open session held after its closed session Wednesday night, but did not take a vote. R-II Superintendent Becky Albrecht said the topic came up too last-minute to be placed on the agenda. The agenda also was not amended at any point during the meeting to add the topic. Typically, all business to be handled in open session is done prior to closed session to allow the public to conveniently view and participate without waiting in between.
Albrecht told The Forum on Thursday morning that during the showing held for students late Wednesday morning, she noted material that she wouldn’t “expect to see (or) feel is appropriate for the classroom — the language and some of the innuendo and things would not be appropriate classroom material — so I don’t think therefore it is appropriate for the extension of the classroom.”
She did not provide or describe a specific problem with the production’s content.
A person close to the production who requested anonymity told The Forum that administration wants “to censor the show so it’s ‘not offensive.’”
“Legally Blonde The Musical” is based on a book by Heather Hach and the 2001 hit film of the same name. It tells the tale of stereotypical sorority girl Elle Woods who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard in an attempt to win him back, but in the end finds the law’s ability to help people to be her calling in life — as well as a few friends along the way.
The film was rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.) by the Motion Picture Association in 2001. A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning by the rating board to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suited for them.
During the past few weeks, the production has noted this rating in its social media posts, in an attempt to inform parents and guardians.
Some of the prominent themes in the production include love, hard work, sacrifice, female empowerment, and overcoming stereotypical and societal archetypes, some of which include: blondes, feminists, fraternity boys, sorority girls, socialites, and even what has been described in the script as a “slightly effeminate European pool boy, who is featured in a song called ‘Gay or European.’”
Albrecht said she and the board don’t typically weigh in on a potential new script brought up by the Maryville Theater Department. The approval comes from high school administrators.
The “Legally Blonde” script was not read in its entirety by those administrators, Albrecht told The Forum. According to The Forum’s source, the script has been available to the district since March.
Albrecht said an overview was presented by its two directors, Jacqui Conn and Vanessa Parsons, and that the overview process is likely to change in the future.
“I don’t think there was anything done intentionally by anyone,” Albrecht said. “I think it was an unfortunate series of events that there was probably some miscommunication and misunderstandings along the way. But when it got to me, you either condone it or you deal with it.”
Albrecht said that the production as it was set to open had numerous things throughout that she believed required modification, too many for it to be on stage tonight (Thursday, Nov. 18). She said district administration met with the directors about some potential changes and adjustments that could be made to allow production of a show that Albrecht said would be more “student-appropriate” and “family-friendly” for the district’s audience.
“It’s postponed and we understand that the kids have invested a lot of time and energy and also we regret that it came at such a last minute,” she said. “That’s horrible for the kids. They’ve invested a lot of time, a lot of energy and we want to be able to showcase their talents, but we think there’s a better way to do that.”
Albrecht said she wants the musical production to be a show that is something the whole community can be proud of.
“I personally hate it for the kids, because I know they’ve invested time and energy,” said Albrecht, “… and to be honest, adults along the way have let them down and I apologize for that and will certainly take action to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Students were informed of the postponement Wednesday night. People present said there were many tears and that the young actors were "devastated."
Conn, director, told The Forum in an email Thursday morning that it is unfortunate they are experiencing a delay.
“I know it is discouraging for all involved,” she wrote. “I am hopeful we will find a solution that will reward the students’ hard work and allow them to share this production with the school and community.”