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Cardinal Local Schools cancel spring high school musical; amid controversy, 'Modern Family' actor responds

Cardinal High School canceled the production of 'The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee' because 'its dialogue and lyrics contain vulgarity.'

MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio — The cast was set, rehearsals and choreography well underway, and sets and props were being created. 

Then, the Cardinal High School cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" was told by the district that their show was cancelled.

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"The biggest concern is when we were asking the board 'What specifically were your concerns? What specifically are your reasons you want to cancel the show?' we were just given answers like, 'It's vulgar and it's not family friendly,'" the show's Assistant Director Mandi Matchinga told 3News.

Matchinga says the district reached out to the director after getting complaints about the show, its mentioning of Jesus, and a character who had two dads. The district released a statement about the show, saying in part, "Its dialogue and lyrics contain vulgarity and therefore are not suitable for our preteen and teenage students in an educational setting."  

You can read the entire statement below:

Machinga clarified the group was already doing a pared-down high school version of the show, and questionable content had already been removed before it was rejected by the board. She claims a modified script was given to the board for consideration and that they had gone through their normal channels to seek approval for the show at the beginning of the school year with no issues.

"The cast and the crew just talked to us and said, 'Let's just email the board [since they're] kind of speaking out about this [so they can] tell us what is wrong with the show," Matchinga said.

In the midst of the controversy at Cardinal, a member of the cast of popular television show "Modern Family" is speaking out. Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who was a part of the original cast of "The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee" on Broadway, took to TikTok to express his feelings following the announcement. 

"For me, it is beyond just being able to do the show," Ferguson remarked in the video. "I want you to know that you all are enough, whoever you are is enough, and I am heartbroken for you."


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

Ferguson also raised concerns that the school may have canceled the production due to the show including two gay fathers. 

"I’ve spent the last 15 years playing a gay father on stage or on Modern Family," Ferguson said, "and I can only tell you — because I've heard firsthand how much of an impact that has had — how much that representation and visibility means to people. I have been told that people changed their opinions about same-sex couples because of that depiction."

Ferguson also mentioned he hopes to speak directly to the students who were involved with the musical via a Zoom call in the near future. In the meantime, Matchinga says without a clear directive on what is questionable in this show, there's no way for them to move forward without running into the same problems.

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