Update: West Side Story and Footloose Boycotting North Carolina and Mississippi Over Anti-LGBT Laws | Playbill

News Update: West Side Story and Footloose Boycotting North Carolina and Mississippi Over Anti-LGBT Laws Rights holders join Stephen Schwartz, Cirque du Soleil and others.
Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert in West Side Story

The rights holders of the musicals West Side Story and Footloose have quietly withdrawn permission for their musicals to be done in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi, apparently in reaction to laws passed in those states that discriminate against LGBT individuals.

MTI, which administers stock and amateur rights to the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents musical West Side Story added the following notice to the show's page on its website:

The rightsholders of this show have made their intentions clear and MTI will not issue new licenses for this show within North Carolina or Mississippi until we receive new instructions.

MTI also handles the rights to shows by composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz, composer-lyricist of Wicked, Godspell and Pippin, who was one of the first to boycott North Carolina. Schwartz has also banned productions of his shows from being licensing in Mississippi due to anti-LGBT legislature. The ban also includes productions for which Schwartz has contributed material, including Disney's Mulan, Jr. and Working.

In addition, Rodgers & Hammerstein, which handles rights to Rags (featuring lyrics by Schwartz and music by Annie composer Martin Charnin), said that the show’s writing team has also requested that licensing be suspended.

Wicked’s Stephen Schwartz Hopes Banning Shows from North Carolina Will Turn Anger Into Activism

Similarly, the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization announced that the rights holders of the musical Footloose had also withdrawn permission for their show, described as one of the most popular in the R&H catalogue, to be done in the two states. They issued this statement:

To the residents of North Carolina and Mississippi:

In light of the recent passage in your states of heinous and discriminatory laws that severely curtails the rights of many minorities, the creators of “Footloose” are suspending the issuance of any license to present or produce their work until such time as the legislature and governor reverse their decision.

Dean Pitchford, Tom Snow and Walter Bobbie, the authors of “Footloose,” hope for the quick repeal of these bills (HB 2 in North Carolina; Religious Freedom Bill 01:42 in Mississippi), at which time you will be able to request perusal materials and license the show.

The two shows also join several large corporations and several whose state governments who are canceling projects and banning travel to the two states, including the cities of San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Portland, as well as the states of New York, Vermont, Connecticut, and Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Among arts groups, Cirque du Soleil canceled engagements in North Carolina after the state passed HB2, a “religious freedom” bill that allows individuals and businesses to deny services to LGBT individuals based on personal religious beliefs.

Upcoming performances of Ovo in Greensboro (April 20-24) and Charlotte (July 6-10), as well as Toruk – Avatar in Raleigh (June 22-26), have all been canceled in the wake of the legislation.

The troupe is set to make its Broadway debut with the new musical Paramour, beginning April 16 at the Lyric Theatre.

Cirque du Soleil issued the following statement:

“Cirque du Soleil strongly believes in diversity and equality for every individual and is opposed to discrimination in any form. The new HB2 legislation passed in North Carolina is an important regression to ensuring human rights for all. We therefore choose to cancel our scheduled performances of Ovo in Greensboro (April 20-24) and our scheduled performances in Charlotte (July 6-10) and our scheduled performances of Toruk Avatar in Raleigh (June 22-26).

Cirque du Soleil believes in equality for all. It is a principle that guides us with both our employees and our customers. We behave as change agents to reach our ultimate goal of making a better world with our actions and our productions.

We sincerely hope that the customers that have purchased tickets for our performances in North Carolina will understand our motivation and we look forward to performing in North Carolina when this issue is addressed.”

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