Cardinal board reverses decision to cancel high school musical

“Production will resume immediately,” Cardinal Board of Education President Linda Smallwood said during Wednesday night’s meeting.

MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio — Cue the lights, the show will go on.

Cardinal Local School District reversed its decision to cancel the high school’s spring production of ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ during Wednesday night’s board of education meeting.

“Everyone had been so stressed lately, worried that all our hard work was for nothing,” said Emma Clinger, a cast member in the musical and freshman at Cardinal High School.

Last week, the district pulled the plug on the production, claiming dialogue and song lyrics were vulgar and not suitable for a school setting.

“It just hurt because we had almost finished our set and we had blocked the first act, and when they canceled it they were taking that away from us,” Clinger said.

The move to cancel the production of “Spelling Bee” garnered national attention. The play features gay dads, which led some to question the real reason for the district’s decision.

One of the Broadway musical’s original cast members, “Modern Family” actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, voiced his concerns on social media.

“I’m heartbroken for you,” Ferguson said.


Some thoughts about Cardinal School in Ohio canceling their production of “Spelling Bee” because they deemed it “not family friendly”. They have given many reasons but all of them are obvious and thinly veiled covers of some bigger things.

♬ original sound – Jesse Tyler Ferguson

The community support poured into the board meeting Wednesday night where many people expressed their disappointment.

“Cardinal Schools has been humiliated, in our district, our county, our state, our country and also internationally due to this fiasco,” one community member said during public comment.

“You did not treat the kids the way they should have been treated,” a concerned father added.

The board said it had no knowledge of the spring musical or its “controversy” until it received the first complaint on January 11th and thought the script couldn’t be revised.

The board said Music Theatre International, the musical’s publishing company, contacted the Cardinal Theater Department and confirmed revisions could be made. They helped make 23 total changes to “comply with Cardinal board policy.”

“I know that there were things involving some language, minor changes, a lot of things we already changed and worked through. Before any of this started, we were ready to have this conversation,” said Mandi Matchinga, assistant director of the musical.

Matchinga said the original Broadway cast had a Zoom call with Cardinal students Wednesday afternoon.

“It was a great experience for them. They were able to ask the cast questions like ‘how did you interpret your character?’ or ‘how did you adlib?,” Matchinga said.

Cardinal Schools superintendent Jack Cunningham said the kids are most important and the policy will be reviewed.

“Our process is broken, I recognize that, so we’re going to work through that, we’re going to get better at doing that so we don’t have to get to this situation again,” Cunnigham said.

Rehearsals will resume Monday. The public performance will be at Cardinal Middle School Cafetorium on March 10, 11 and 12.

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