It's not surprising that the morality brigade came out of the woodwork to complain about Judge Memorial High School's production of Rent. (The show features gay characters and people living with AIDS, so of course it's "morally destructive," initiates students into the "fetishes of the homosexualist [sic] movement," brings into question Judge's credibility as a Catholic school, and so forth.) ---
That is what the morality brigade does: worry, scold and catastrophize, provoking acts of community outrage. And, since the show is such a moral threat, we can assume that few of them have actually attended a production of Rent -- much less a production of the expurgated high school version -- so they don't know what they're talking about. What else is new?
What I found surprising is that Rent is now being performed in high schools. That one sneaked up on me. How quickly these past 15 years have flown by!
I'm revealing my age when I admit that, in my own school musical days, I was cast in such chestnuts as Annie Get Your Gun (as "Major Domo"), 1776 (as "John Dickenson"), and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (in a specially created solo role as "the only guy in the chorus who could hit that tricky tritone modulation during 'I Believe in You'". Oh, I was a high school musical star!)
Even back in the '80s, as far as we were concerned, these shows might as well have been exhumed from Tin Pan Alley. (Public-school drama teachers have little choice but to choose from the cheap list.) We begged them to let us do something more up-to-date such as (recklessly) The Rocky Horror Show or (implausibly) Little Shop of Horrors. I'm pretty sure we seemed more charming than obnoxious in our youthful optimism.
So I imagine it must be exciting for these drama geeks at Judge to do a show that is still reasonably up-to-date -- and even relevant enough to spark controversy.
And it's admirable that school officials are refusing to buckle under pressure. Standing your ground in the face of condemnation and name-calling may end up being one of the most valuable lessons these students could ever learn.
Tickets are cheap! It's a rare opportunity to see a high school production of Rent -- and it could make for a fun evening