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Lebanon County school district won’t allow Addams Family on stage, saying it promotes bad values

  • Jeremy Long/WITF
A screenshot from the Northern Lebanon School Board meeting on March 13, 2023.

A screenshot from the Northern Lebanon School Board meeting on March 13, 2023.

One of the nation’s most popular high school comedy musicals promotes bad values and has no place in the Northern Lebanon School District, according to officials who voted it down this week.

After a 30-minute debate Tuesday night, the board voted 2-7 to not approve The Addams Family musical for 2024.

Board members Michelle Bucks and Robb Faller voted for the show to be produced.

Board member Troy Williams, who is pastor at Calvary Church in Lebanon, said the musical sticks to the basis of the 1960s television show and is the number one school musical in the country, but said the show has no place in the district.

“The question at hand is,” he said, “is the musical appropriate for the students, faculty, staff, parents and community at large for the Northern Lebanon School District? And the answer is no.”

“There are a number of songs, scenes, lines and phrases I do not want to promote within our district.” he said

Board member Nathan Erdman said now was not the time to perform this show.

“I just think in my own opinion, there’s a lot of other great musicals or great scripts we could choose from and at this time, with our climate and culture, I’d like to see a different one picked out,” he said.

Several board members took issue with the musical’s dark themes, scenes of children smoking, scenes of violence and scenes of liking torture or self-harm.

The Addams Family musical reflects today’s culture, Board member Robbie England said, but he did not view that as a good thing.

“I have bigger dreams for NL than just reflecting more of that,” he said. “I believe we have the opportunity and obligation to be counter-cultural and raise the standard and send out graduates from NL that will embrace the values that we want them to on the Viking Pride posters around the school.”

He added if the board approved the musical it would not be taken seriously in its efforts to improve the culture of the district.

School boards elsewhere in Pennsylvania and in Florida, Indiana and Kansas have also canceled or challenged high school musicals recently, with complaints that that content isn’t family friendly, NPR reported.

Bucks noted that Northern Lebanon would not be the first school to perform the musical and noted that several area high schools have performed it including: Cedar Crest, Hershey, Lower Dauphin, Cumberland Valley, and Harrisburg Christian Performing Arts School.

“No matter what musical we choose, somebody somewhere is going to have discomfort with it,” she said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is inappropriate for the entire school and entire community.”

Board President Barry Naum said he reviewed the musical and found 40 things he could consider offensive, though they were not personally offensive to him.

“I know that I would enjoy seeing this play in a community theater or some other context,” he said. “But when it comes down to it, we are not a community theater. We are a school.”

Some board members said the school could edit some of the scenes to make it more acceptable,as has been done in the past.

“I don’t think there is a play with a worse theme than Grease and we performed it in an excellent way,” Naum said. “Mrs. (Brooke) Bomberger did a fantastic job of modifying it to what we believe is community standards.”

But Naum said he did not think she could do it with the Addams Family musical.

“The fundamental thematic theme, for me that I could see, was moving towards darkness, embracing death, embracing despair, embracing the pain,” he said.

“If a number of school directors for this community view this as potentially being problematic for the standards of the community then I think that’s probably a good enough reason for us to go in another direction,” Naum said.

Superintendent Gary Messinger Jr. said there is still time to find another musical to perform in 2024. .

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