School cancels Darwin play after complaints from Christian parents

By Sophie Lewis

/ CBS News

An elementary school in Britain has canceled its performances of a musical on evolution after complaints from some Christian parents over some of its lyrics.

About 90 students were preparing to perform "Darwin Rocks!," a musical about Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, next month at Hartford Manor Primary School — a non-religious school in Cheshire. According to BBC News, six parents expressed concern over they portrayal of Christian views throughout the show, which is aimed at 7-to-11-year-olds

Simon Kidwell, the head teacher of the school told the BBC that he received complains about the lyrics "bump and grind," which refer to sexually suggestive dance moves. Three parents also believed a bishop who appears in one of the scenes is "mocked." Some parents felt the show does not accurately represent Christian views on science and criticized its implication that students cannot pursue science and Christianity simultaneously.

Some parents threatened to pull their children from the production, causing the school to cancel it altogether. The school board was not involved in the decision to drop the production, and the school teaches evolution, which parents had not previously complained about, according to Kidwell.

Poster for Darwin Rocks!, a musical about Charles Darwin. Musicline

Several parents said they felt the school made the wrong choice in canceling the show. "It really does feel like a huge step backwards," parent Alan McDonald told The Independent. "It doesn't seem evenhanded or in any way right."

"It is simply unacceptable that religious fundamentalist views should have such influence in a community primary school and prevent children accessing what should have been a brilliant learning experience," another parent said.

According to the show's publisher Musicline, "Darwin Rocks!" is a "light-hearted look" at Darwin's life. It covers his favorite food (fried tortoise), his favorite sport (snooker, which is similar to billiards), his favorite pastime (making lists) and of course his favorite subject — evolution.

Mike Smith, the managing director at Musicline, said they asked writer Steve Titford to write a "factual musical about Charles Darwin's life and beliefs." Titford previously wrote the popular musical, "Shakespeare Rocks!" Smith said the show has been "received with enthusiasm" in schools around the world since 2017.

"You can't please all the people all the time, but having been in the school musical business for over 25 years, we can't ever recall having courted controversy before," Smith said.

First published on February 8, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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