'All Shook Up' caused bigger shake in Utah than 'Inherit the Wind'
Herriman • KayCee Bradshaw thought her production of "Inherit the Wind" at Herriman High School might draw complaints for its evolution theme.
But it was the rollicking "All Shook Up" which opens Wednesday that triggered objections and a hoopla that sparked international media coverage.
"It was just a shocker," Bradshaw said recently while conducting final rehearsals for "All Shook Up." "I thought our previous production ["Inherit the Wind"] would be more controversial."
"All Shook Up" was canceled for a day in January after a community member complained about lines in the Elvis Presley-inspired musical. But a handful of alterations are allowing the show to go on.
A lyric in " A Little Less Conversation" has been changed from "Baby, satisfy me, baby, satisfy me," to "Baby, hold me, baby, hold me." Words have been deleted from the line "Let's go down to the swimming hole and slap each other's privates." Media reports that the offending song was the Presley song "All Shook Up" were incorrect.
The 1950s era rock 'n' roll musical remains popular at high schools with more than 900 productions since 2005 because it has an equal number of male and female roles, along with its lively songs.
There are 15 Herriman teens in the play's band, 33 on the technical crew and 50 actors, some who found their largely sheltered lives somewhat transformed by the unexpected drama. Bradshaw said several students, more than usual, backed out after the initial cancelation announcement.
The students are now rehearsing on weekdays from 4 to 8 p.m., and on Saturdays.
Sarah Keuhl, 18, who plays the female lead Natalie/"Ed," has been in more than 20 productions. This summer, she plans on attending the New York University summer program before enrolling at Utah State University.
She wants to become a high school theater teacher.
"I was surprised because the controversy was from people who had not seen the play," Keuhl said. "I see how much theater has given me as a gift and I want to give that back."
'I felt broken' • "All Shook Up" was approved last May, before stricter theater guidelines were adopted in August following criticism of another Jordan School District production, "Dead Man Walking." The conservative Utah Eagle Forum had condemned the Bingham High performance, which it said was filled with profanity, political bias and "inappropriate use of biblical teachings."
The stricter guidelines were the reason for the Herriman High controversy, which started in January, just after the more than 100 theater students had spent months polishing their "All Shook Up" dance moves and perfecting their pitch.
District officials canceled the play, questioning whether it met community standards after a resident complained. The district did not identify the person, and when The Salt Lake Tribune filed a public-records request, district spokesman Steven Dunham said there were no written records related to the phone call.
Bradshaw said she didn't meet the complainer and was not given a chance to address the district's concerns. Instead, she was shown a revised script with changes on every page and asked if she could implement them. When she said no, the district canceled the play.
"The theater becomes a part of your life, so when it was taken away, I felt broken," said Bradshaw, a 2009 Brigham Young University graduate, who started her career as Herriman High's first theater instructor when the school opened in 2010.
Frustration over the inelegant cancelation quickly spread across the campus and then the media, as theater students protested online through social media.
The next day, the district announced the play could go on with only minor changes.
"The worst day," Bradshaw said, "was followed by the best day."
'Elvis was cool' • Stage manager Kirsten Carter, 18, will oversee the eight "All Shook Up" scene changes in the school's state-of-the-art auditorium. She moved to Herriman a year ago from Tennessee.
She hasn't seen an Elvis movie, but she did look up the "Jailhouse Rock" video on YouTube.
"The white T-shirts and stripped dresses inspired us," Carter said. "Elvis was cool."
Zac Garside, 18, who plays the male lead of Chad, has been in theater productions since grade school, but plans to study business administration this fall.
"[Being in theater] taught me social skills and how to break out," said Garside, who is the student-body president.
This year's production has felt more like a roller coaster than the previous "Inherit the Wind," sometimes called the Scopes Monkey Trial, Bradshaw said. It centers on Tennessee science teacher John Scopes challenging the anti-evolution law in 1925.
"I'd say that play was about not closing your mind to new ideas," Bradshaw said. "But this play ["All Shook Up"] is about tolerance and understanding. Plus, it's fun."
Herriman High's 'All Shook Up'
What • Musical based on "Twelfth Night" and inspired by the music of Elvis Presley
Where • Herriman High, 11917 S. 6000 West, in Herriman
When • Feb. 27 to March 2
Info • 801-567-8530
Jordan District policy
The district's process for dealing with complaints now includes informing the theater teacher. A committee of district administrators and community members ensures performances meet community standards. To avoid surprises for parents, students must have a signed permission slip to participate.