High school musicals are a big deal in our area and tend to be very high quality. Our family goes to see several of them every spring. In particular, Woodland Hills does incredibly good shows.
We just got the schedule of high school musicals from the newspaper. Woodland Hills will be doing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. There is a "school edition" and that's probably what they'll be doing, but based on what I've just read online, the main changes are removing profanity and making the murders less explicit. This is still a story about murder, cannibalism, and rape, with a very bleak mood and a downer ending.
My partner's parents took him to a professional production of Sweeney Todd when he was SIX. He says he was only mildly disturbed by the story and was thrilled out of his mind by the set (barbershop above a meat-pie shop, dropping customers down the chute) and spent months afterward building things inspired by it. However, he feels that his parents' overall willingness to take him to shows and movies with dark, disturbing plots and graphic violence was probably not good for his moral development or sense of optimism about life.
I was 14 when my brother and cousins and I were looking for something to watch on TV and saw "Great Performances: Sweeney Todd"--we'd never heard of it but figured it was worth a try. All of us afterward felt that it was an excellent performance of a well-written show with a compelling plot, and that was why we hadn't been able to stop watching it despite our uneasy feelings. We all had trouble sleeping and struggled for several days to stop thinking about it. But when I saw a college production and then the movie, it didn't bother me much, because I was prepared for the story and by then I'd seen many scarier things.
We have generally avoided having our son see violence. However, when he was 4 1/2 he insisted that he wanted to see Food, Inc. which includes graphic footage of animal slaughter, and he did fine with that, felt it was educational. A year or so later we began letting him see movies like Star Wars with some shooting and arms cut off and so forth. He has never been freaked out by any of it as a small part of an interesting story, but he does not care for movies/TV that are primarily about fighting and gore. Once, channel-surfing in a hotel, he happened upon a movie in which a gruesome accident was very vividly depicted, and that really upset him badly.
He really, really wants to see the Woodland Hills musical no matter what it is. He's begging us to take him to Sweeney Todd. We know they will do a fantastic job with it, the set will be amazing, the singing and acting will be great. But the plot is so sick and twisted!! Both parents have serious doubts about whether this is appropriate.
It happens that this musical is scheduled for the weekend our baby is due, and the weekend before. What I said this morning when we first saw the schedule was that even if we do plan to see this musical, the baby may well foil our plans--and I am NOT willing to ask the friends caring for our son during the birth to take him to see Sweeney Todd (whereas I'd happily hand them tickets to Annie or something); if he's going to see it, I want to see exactly what he sees. My partner strongly agreed with that. Our son accepted it, too, saying that if he IS bothered by any part of the show, he wants us to know exactly what he's talking about. However, he thinks he will enjoy it, and that knowing in advance what the show is about will prevent him from feeling disturbed by it.
If the baby is on time so we could see the show the first weekend...should we go? I'm thinking not...but I would like to hear from anyone whose child around this age has seen Sweeney Todd or something pretty similar: Did it work out okay, or did you regret it?
Mama to a boy EnviroKid 9 years old and a new little girl EnviroBaby !
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We're a big theatre family but there is one show I regret. A friend invited DD and myself to see a professional production of "Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd" when she was 9. I knew little of it and didn't look it up. We knew at least 10 young children in the cast and so honestly, I didn't think twice. Big mistake. Dark, cruel and nothing went over DD's head at all. She still looks back on it as a disturbing experience. We saw Sweeney Todd a couple years ago. We took our kids DS 10 and DD 13 at the time. However, they had worked with several in the cast so it sort of changes the experience.
Depends on the kid too. I'd have never taken DD at 9. Too sensitive and prone to holding on to images and sounds that disturb her. DS though, totally different. By 8, he'd already died on stage as Gavroche. When he saw Sweeney Todd at 10, his response was all technical... how did they handle the trap doors and how difficult is managing all those blood packs. We had to track down the stage manager after to get all his questions answered.
Would have totally freaked me out at that age--I hid my face during certain scenes in the movie as an adult. But I think the fact that there's a movie might actually help with this. Perhaps you could rent the movie, watch it with him, pause it before upsetting scenes and explain to him what's about to happen, and see how he handles it, then go from there. The plot IS sick and twisted, but it's not like the "bad guys" don't ultimately get their comeuppance; it certainly doesn't promote the behavior of the main characters even while you do sympathize with them to some extent.