2006_05_chicagokids.jpg

It's an ending fitting for Broadway, except in this case, Broadway is East Tremont Avenue. The students at Lehman High School will be able to perform their high school musical, Chicago, when city officials intervened on their behalf. Their sob story about being served a cease-and-desist by the guardians of Chicago's rights and licensing struck a chord in the hearts of many who realized it would be a great press op: Saving the drama club hearts of youngster pitted against Broadway money men. We love a good story, too, but Lehman High School's actions seem more disingenous, for example, their 24 year old drama teacher Anthony Cerini transcribed the movie - plus found some stuff on the Internet and wrote some of the script on his own - for them to use in the musical. Well, then, hey, that's some original material - but poor Fred Ebb must be rolling in his grave (hey, someone needs to get a quote from John Kander!) And just where is the music coming from? After we conducted an informal straw poll of drama club geeks, they were shocked and upset that Lehman never asked for permission, as that's what makes and breaks many high school productions each year (and why lots of schools do Peter Pan).

Actual Chicago producer Barry Weissler discussed the situation with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Ambassador Theatre owner Gerald Schoenfeld and Samuel French Inc. (the rights company) president Charles Van Nostrand and agreed to let the school perform, in spite of never asking for permission and the rule that no show can be performed within 75 miles of an official performance. But Weissler did add to the Daily News, "The irony here is that 'Chicago' is about women who commit murder and go to jail, but if you are beautiful enough and you have enough money, and especially if you have the press on your side - in this case the Daily News - you will get what you want." For his part, Chancellor Klein promised to make sure schools understand the rights process. And Samuel French Inc. will look into the Lehman principal's claim that during his 27 years, he has never asked for permission to perform musicals, which is only fair. At any rate, Gothamist wishes the Lehman students broken legs and a better understanding of the musical rights process.

Photograph by Mary Altaffer for the AP