By Kent Larsen
Mormons Oppose 'Godspell' At Ogden, Utah High School
OGDEN, UTAH -- News that a group of Mormon parents in Ogden, Utah
have forced Ogden High School to scale back and postpone a planned
production of the musical "Godspell" has made newspapers outside of Utah.
The high school changed the production from a school-sponsored play, paid for with
state money, to a student drama club production, paid for with
The Mormon parents, including Valerie Bentley-Ballif, whose
17-year-old son Chris wanted to be in the musical until he read the script, objected
to the play, saying that it is offensive and "inappropriate" for a
public school. "He wanted to be in the musical, until he read the script,"
says Bentley-Ballif. "And he said, 'Mom, I can't do this. This is
The musical, which debuted on Broadway in 1971, tells the story of
the life of Christ, loosely following the book of Matthew in the New
Testament. However, the historical characters are represented by clowns in the
musical. But the clowns also represent warring factions of society, and the
play promotes tolerance and forgiveness.
Bentley-Ballif said she found the portrayal of Christ's crucifixion
as an electrocution on an electric fence, particularly offensive. "I'm
not a zealot. But that was offensive." But she blames her frustration
on school officials, who she says didn't give proper weight to the concerns of
parents. "We just don't believe they care about how we feel. I'm
not at all happy about it, nor were any of the other parents."
Because of the concerns, the school distanced itself from the
production, and principal Debbi Gomberg says most parents are satisfied with the
solution. Students have 'hired' the school's drama director for the
production, which will probably debut in January, instead of next
week as originally planned. The play could also be further delayed because of
Unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ, Superstar," LDS
Church officials have never issued an official comment on "Godspell."
"Jesus Christ, Superstar," a rock opera that is also about the life of Christ,
drew a condemnation from the LDS Church's First Presidency when it was
performed in Salt Lake City in October 1971.
High School 'Godspell' play draws protests
St Louis MO Post (Salt Lake Tribune) 29Oct00 D4
By Ashley Estes: Salt Lake Tribune