2 elementary schools abruptly leave NJ theater mid-show, blaming ‘language’
HADDON — Amid the spring season of field trips, a matinee musical performance for some South Jersey schools was the scene of an abrupt departure by two elementary groups.
The Ritz Theater was putting on “School of Rock,” based on the 2003 movie of the same name, starring Jack Black that was adapted into a hit Broadway musical.
The performance was attended by four school groups — totaling about 237 students, teachers and chaperones, according to theater spokesperson Rob Repici.
During the second act, a group of roughly 144 fifth graders and chaperones from Hartford Upper Elementary School and two dozen or so with a third-grade class from Kellman Brown Academy got up and left early.
“From what we understand, the language in the script was the primary issue both schools had with the show,” Repici said in a response to Townsquare Media.
He said that schools were informed before attending that "School of Rock is recommended for ages eight and older. Please note that School of Rock contains occasional strong language and may not be suitable for very young children."
‘Not appropriate’ for 8 and 9-year-old students, private school group decided
Request for comment from the Mount Laurel Schools Superintendent on the fifth-grade group that left was not immediately answered on Tuesday.
“Prior to attending, we spoke with the Ritz Theater Company and were advised that the content of the production was age appropriate for these students,” a spokesperson for the private Kellman Brown Academy said.
“During our trip, our teachers felt that the language used in the production was not age appropriate for eight- and nine-year-old students and made the decision to leave the theater during the production,” the spokesperson continued.
“We did not perceive our decision to leave the show as controversial. Our students were seated in the rear of the auditorium and made every effort to cause the least possible interruption.”
“We respect the Ritz Company and were disappointed that they decided to post our decision to leave on social media and misrepresent our intentions,“ the Kellman Brown Academy spokesperson added, saying that parents of students were “appreciative of our concern for their children.”
Show disruption a 'disservice to the cast and crew' NJ theater says
“To disrupt a live performance in that fashion is a disservice to the cast and crew who all took the time to perform the show yesterday morning, to the front-of-house staff who volunteered to help out at The Ritz yesterday morning, and to the other school groups who were present (and stayed throughout) to enjoy the show,” a Thursday post on the Ritz Theater Facebook page said.
“To the Hartford ‘Team Courage’ and Kellman Brown Academy students who were required to leave the show, we’re immensely sorry, especially as we realize that, for many of you, it was your first-ever field trip,” the theater post continued.
The Ritz Theater has offered to have any student who was escorted out by their school early, back for a free show with their guardians.
“We don't have concrete numbers at this time, but estimate from early ticketing reports that around a dozen parents and students have responded to the offer of returning to see the show in its entirety free of charge,” the spokesman said.
He added “There have been more families from the affected schools who have returned and instead opted to pay for their tickets in support of the theater.”
The movie, School of Rock, has been rated PG-13, mainly for language, since its release 20 years ago.
The adapted musical production similarly includes the words “ass,” “sex gods,” “s---” and “douche bag,” as reported by NJ Advance Media.
A clip of the Broadway musical includes a couple of such curses, from the song “Stick it to the Man.”