SYNPOSIS: This 2017 Tony Award-winning play takes a fascinating look at the secret back-channel talks that resulted in the 1993 Oslo peace accords between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
LANGUAGE: In the heat of tense private negotiations between two groups who have been waging war on each other for most of the twentieth century, the principal characters employ a significant amount of strong language in the play, principally the use of the four-letter Anglo-Saxon obscenity, enough to qualify the play for an “R” rating. Specifically, the language includes many uses of the word “fuck,” (used often as an exclamatory oath), as well as one or two uses of “shit” and “bullshit,” “piss” and “pee,” “son-of-a-bitch” and “asshole,” and “Christ.”
SMOKING/DRINKING: The negotiators spend months together negotiating, but also adjourn for dinner every evening, where wine and other alcoholic beverages are consumed. There is a reference to Turkish cigarettes in the script, so cigarettes may be smoked.
VIOLENCE: Other than one shoving match, there is no violence in the play, although there are repeated references to the historic brutality and bloodshed that defines the Middle East.
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES? This play examines a fascinating historical event and will be appreciated by all patrons with an interest in foreign policy, world peace and the use of diplomacy rather than war to achieve peaceful ends. The strong language employed throughout the play will be discomfiting to conservative audience members, and while students should see the play as an illumination of one of the major flashpoints of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, teenaged audience members should attend at a parent’s discretion. The play is above the heads of pre-teens.
RATING: The show would be rated “R” for strong language.
SWEENEY TODD: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
SYNOPSIS: Generally acknowledged as Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, this musical thriller tells the tale of Sweeney Todd, a barber in nineteenth century London who returns from Australia to wreak revenge on the judge who sent him to prison. He winds up in cahoots with Mrs. Lovett, the owner of a struggling meat pie shop, who sees a way to make a profit from the people Sweeney kills. The musical is darkly and diabolically funny, filled with beautiful music and bloodthirsty murders at the same time.
LANGUAGE: There is a small amount of vulgar language. Specifically, the language includes the use of “shit” (several times), and Christ.”
SMOKING AND DRINKING: There is both smoking and drinking in the show.
SMOKING/DRINKING: There is both smoking and drinking in the show.
SEX: There is some sexual innuendo in the lyrics, and the character of Judge Turpin punishes himself for his lustful thoughts by whipping himself, but there is no explicit sexual activity in the play.
VIOLENCE: As befits the title, Sweeney murders a number of people by slitting their throats when they come in for a shave, and Mrs. Lovett grinds up his victims for use in her meat pies. The violence is of the Halloween horror variety (in fact, the musical was made into a movie starring Johnny Depp) and is in the tradition of Jack-the-Ripper and other mad killer stories.
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES? Sweeney Todd is suitable for most adult audiences and teenaged children. Audiences should be advised about the stylized violence in the show, and younger children would be frightened by Sweeney and his razor. The musical is not suitable for children under the age of ten, and older children should attend at a parent’s discretion.
RATING: The movie version of Sweeney Todd was rated “R” for gore/violence. The stage version will be somewhat milder and would likely receive a “PG-13” rating.
MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY
SYNOPSIS: This charming sequel to Pride and Prejudice takes place at Pemberley Hall, where Elizabeth Bennet Darcy has invited her family to join her for her first Christmas after her marriage to Mr. Darcy. When her strong-minded sister Mary and the bookish Arthur de Bourgh strike up a friendship—will romance follow?
SMOKING/DRINKING: There may be incidental depictions of drinking and smoking.
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES? Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is suitable for all audiences, including children aged ten and older. “Jane Austen-ites” and lovers of good old-fashioned romances will love the play; it might be over the head of younger children.
RATING: If it were a movie, Christmas at Pemberley would be rated “G.”
THE LION IN WINTER
SYNOPSIS: It’s Christmas in 1183, and Henry II, King of England, is locked in a battle of wits with his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine over which of their sons will succeed him as king. Henry has had Eleanor locked away in favor of Alais, a French princess whom he would like to marry. Eleanor has other ideas, and while she and Henry try to outmaneuver each other, their three sons scheme and intrigue over the throne.
LANGUAGE: None to speak of; a few exclamatory oaths.
SMOKING/DRINKING: There may be depictions of drinking.
SEX: None. Both Eleanor and Henry recall their past as lusty lovers, and Henry is driven by his sexual desires, but those things are talked about, not enacted.
VIOLENCE: None—talked about and threatened, but no violence occurs.
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES? As a fascinating glimpse into historical figures, The Lion in Winter is suitable for all audiences, including children aged ten and older. Younger children might be bored by it.
RATING: The movie version of The Lion in Winter would be rated “PG.”
SYNOPSIS: This Tony award-winning musical, based on the surprise hit film of the same name, is about the romance between an Irish street musician and the young Czech woman, also a musician, he meets on the streets of Dublin. A tender love story in which two people fall in love over a shared passion for music, Once features some of the most beautiful love songs written for the screen or stage, and a cast of actors who also play all the musical instruments in the show.
LANGUAGE: There is a small amount of strong language in the play, including the occasional use of the four-letter Anglo Saxon obscenity (all uttered in either a charming Irish brogue or an impenetrable Czech accent), along with a small amount of other vulgar language and a few uses of “Jesus” (or “Jaysus,” as the Irish say). Specifically, the language includes a dozen or so uses of “fuck/fucking/fuck it,” as well as “Jesus/Jaysus,” “Christ,” “screwed,” “shit,” “fecker,” “wanker,” “crap,” “asshole” and “bastard.”
SMOKING/DRINKING: Some of Once’s scenes are set in a bar, so there will be depictions of drinking and smoking.
SEX: None. The two main characters fall in love, but quite chastely; any implied sexual activity occurs offstage.
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES? Once is a gentle musical suitable for all audiences, but the small amount of vulgar language will be discomfiting to conservative audience members. Students ten years and above will love the show and the music but should attend at a parent’s discretion. Children 5-10 years old may be bored by the show.
RATING: The movie version of Once was rated “R” for language.
SYNOPSIS: Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Sweat looks at the interconnected lives of nine people—friends and co-workers at a manufacturing plant in Reading, Pennsylvania at the turn of the twenty-first century. The nine characters appear to have overcome their racial and ethnic diversity to work together and become close friends, but when the plant ownership takes a hard line in union negotiations, fissures open up between the nine. When a manager job becomes available and best friends Tracy and Cynthia both apply for it, tensions flare as people who have come to depend on the plant for their livelihood start to feel threatened by “outsiders,” some of whom they’ve known for years.
LANGUAGE: The characters in Sweat are blue-collar workers living in a rust-belt town, and they employ the habitual use of conversational strong language in their day-to-day talk. There is therefore a considerable amount of very strong language in the play, enough to qualify the play for an “R” rating. Specifically, this language includes the frequent use of the word “fuck/fucking” (as an adjective), along with uses of “shit,” bullshit,” “bitch,” “Jesus,” “Goddamn,” “titties,” “prick,” “bastards,” “nigga,” and “asshole.”
SMOKING/DRINKING: A number of scenes take place in bar, where alcohol is consumed in quantity. There will also be depictions of smoking and drug use (the latter mostly referred to).
VIOLENCE: In the climactic scene, violence erupts, with tragic consequences for the characters.
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES? Sweat is a highly praised and multi-award winning play that looks at many of the major issues confronting America in the twenty-first century—race, work, the loss of blue collar jobs and the struggle of the middle class—but its habitual strong language will be discomfiting to conservative audience members. As a play about social issues in America, it would be very engrossing to student audiences, but teenagers should only attend at a parent’s discretion, and the play is unsuitable for pre-teens.
RATING: If it were a movie, Sweat would be rated “R” for language.
SYNPOSIS: Grease is a nostalgic and affectionate look back at America at the dawn of the sixties, as the senior class of ’59 at Rydell High enjoys their senior year. As Danny and Sandy become a couple, the Pink Ladies and Burger Palace Boys hang out at the local burger joint, talking about cars, each other and the upcoming dance.
LANGUAGE: There is some vulgar language, but it’s 1959, and most of the language is pretty tame. The Burger Palace Boys and Pink Ladies think of themselves as tough, but their language is fairly innocuous by current standards. Specifically, the language includes “crap,” “broads (slang for women), “son-of-a bitch,” “knockers,” “Jap,” “Polack,” “jugs,” “for Christ’s sake,” “bastard,” “frigging,” “Jesus,” “damned,” and “knocked up.”
SMOKING/DRINKING: For all their tough talk, the characters are mostly innocents. The Pink Ladies throw a slumber party and drink cheap wine, which makes Sandy sick. Most of the boys will have a pack of cigarettes rolled up their sleeves, but few will actually smoke.
SEX: Talked about, but not enacted. Rizzo thinks she may be pregnant, which turns out to be a false alarm.
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES? The stage version of Grease is somewhat different from the movie version, although the tone of the two is very similar—nostalgic and sentimental. Grease is likely suitable for all general audiences, including children aged ten and older. Younger children should attend at a parent’s discretion.
RATING: The movie version of Grease was rated “PG-13.”
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES
SYNOPSIS: La Cage Aux Folles, upon which the hit movie The Birdcage is based, takes place at a famous drag nightclub in St. Tropez on the French Riviera. The club is owned by George, and the star of the show is his long-time partner, Albin. Together George and Albin have raised a son, Jean-Michel, who has returned to the club to tell them that he is engaged to a young woman, Anne, whose father is the extremely conservative Minister of the Tradition, Family and Morality Party in France. He has invited Anne and her family to meet his family, but asks that Albin not be present for the meeting, crushing Albin, who raised Jean-Michel as his son. However, when Jean-Michel’s biological mother is unable to show up, Albin steps into the role of his mother for the meeting between the two families, with predictably hilarious results.
LANGUAGE: There is no strong language in the play, beyond one or two very mild vulgarities (one use of “tits” and two uses of “bitch.”)
SMOKING/DRINKING: Many scenes take place in a nightclub, where drinking typically occurs, and champagne is liberally consumed. As this is a concert production, those elements will likely be minimized.
FOR WHICH AUDIENCES?: Beyond the obvious fact that this is a show about two men who have raised a son together as a committed and loving couple, and the fact that one of the men is the star of a famous drag show in which the musical numbers are performed by men dressed as women, La Cage Aux Folles is a very old-fashioned musical that is really about the importance of family. The musical numbers are traditional song-and-dance numbers created by one of the great practitioners of the form, and the musical itself is sweetly earnest and heartfelt.