CEDAR GROVE, N.J. (PIX11) — Cedar Grove High School’s upcoming spring musical, ‘The Prom,’ is causing quite a bit of controversy within the town. 

Last week, school officials canceled ‘The Prom,’ citing ‘community concerns.’ However, the district reversed its decision just days later, claiming it was based on the play’s language and not its LGBTQ+ content. 

‘The Prom’ tells the story of a lesbian student whose school tries to stop her from taking her girlfriend to prom.

“There is a stigma you created by creating this drama,” said Richard Pearson, who moved to Cedar Grove with his husband and daughter last year.

At a Tuesday Board of Education meeting, President Dawn Daura read a statement regarding the decision on behalf of the Board. 

“The concern and the decision involving ‘The Prom’ was with the language associated with the Broadway version of the musical and not for its subject matter,” said Daura. 

The district is now allowing students to perform a high-school version of ‘The Prom,’ deemed more appropriate for younger audiences. This is a generally common practice for performances deemed too risqué to be performed by high schoolers. 

But Pearson believes the district’s reasoning about language was intentionally vague and finds the entire situation an unfortunate example of life imitating art. 

“No one wants to come out and be like, ‘Well, I’m really homophobic, and it makes me really uncomfortable to see a musical about gay people,’” said Pearson. “No one wants to say that. So they’re trying to dress it up, which is, ironically, what happens in the musical.” 

2012 CGHS graduate Rebecca Altschul said she was extremely disappointed and upset to learn of the district’s decision. However, she said previous high-school performances – including ‘Chicago’ and ‘The Laramie Project’ – were put on without a problem.

“We didn’t get any pushback,” said Altschul. “We didn’t receive any kind of negative reaction…We were never told we shouldn’t.” 

Two people with direct knowledge of the situation tell PIX11 News that newest board member Paul Palek spearheaded efforts to stop ‘The Prom.’ However, Palek would not offer comments when approached via email and in person before the meeting. 

Palek replaced council president Christine Dye, who resigned following backlash from a student survey asking about gender identity. 

In a statement, Cedar Grove Schools Superintendent Anthony Grosso said: 

The arts are an area that students can express themselves and be exposed to, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. When a musical is in the process of being produced at the high school level, shows that were meant for broadway may have language in the script or in musical pieces that could be viewed as inappropriate to our younger audience or other members of the community. In that case, a high school edition of that play would need to be developed to accommodate our potential audience. After further inquiry with the licensing organization, we were informed that a High School Edition of “The Prom” just became available. Therefore, Cedar Grove Public Schools fully supports producing the High School Edition of the musical “The Prom,” which was not previously available at the time of licensing.