The latest production from Summerville Town Council is getting two thumbs down from the critics.

See, a couple of council members have decided the Flowertown Players need some, well, direction after they were shocked - shocked - by the theater company's version of the Broadway show "Rent" earlier this year.

Last week, Councilman Terry Jenkins tried to withhold about $3,000 in hospitality tax money from the Flowertown Players. Jenkins said he was no prude and then sounded exactly like one as he claimed the musical was far too raunchy for little ol' Pleasantville, er, Summerville.

Jenkins had some support, but he was voted down. As a compromise, theater representatives have to go before the council's finance committee next month and explain themselves.

Bad idea.

Apparently, somebody didn't notice how stupid the Legislature looked trying to censor the College of Charleston earlier this year. Remember, lawmakers were offended by the graphic novel "Fun Home."

As if it's their business.

Now here we go again, with the morals police setting community standards of their own making - whether or not the community wants it.

Just because we elect politicians to keep the ditches clean and the firetrucks rolling, it doesn't mean we ask to be subjected to their Slim Whitman and Lawrence Welk tastes.

"Rent" is just about as alien to life in a nice little town like Summerville as it can get.

It's about a bunch of poor people in New York City - squatters, basically - who are struggling to find their way in the world. The cast includes artists, poets, musicians, filmmakers, with a stripper thrown in for good measure.

Some of them have AIDS.

If the Flowertown production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" didn't give the garden club the vapors, why would "Rent"?

Flowertown clearly advertised the mature content in the show, so no one should have been surprised. And they obviously didn't mind. As Councilman William McIntosh points out, "Rent" played to standing-room-only crowds every single night of its run.

"Apparently a sizeable portion of the community wanted to go see it," McIntosh said. "I don't see it as our job to subject our judgment on them."

Yep. But it sure is funny how some conservatives say they want the government out of people's lives, and then try to stick its Big Brother nose into the middle of everything that doesn't conform to some "Happy Days" world view.

What people ought to do is heed the advice of Mayor Bill Collins, who is a founding member of the Flowertown Players.

"If you don't like it, get up and leave," Collins says. "I don't think it's fair to penalize the theater group."

As the Fonz would say, he is absolutely correctamundo.

The Flowertown Players are set to premiere their production of "Hairspray" just before they are hauled before the council's finance committee next month.

Uh-oh. See, not only does "Hairspray" include actors in drag, it is largely about one young woman's attempt to integrate a TV dance show.

Don't these folks know politicians around here get skittish about race?

You know, it would be a shame if the Flowertown Players lost their well-deserved local subsidy. So perhaps they should just take council - not community - standards into account when picking their projects.

See, some of these Broadway productions are hiding pretty subversive themes behind all those show tunes. And you never know what's going to make the foxtrot crowd blow a gasket.

Perhaps it's best to just avoid some shows.

For instance, "South Pacific" and "Miss Saigon" both deal with interracial relationships. And one girl in "Oklahoma!" has a fling with a Persian guy.

That's a little, well, racy.

"Les Miserables" is too sympathetic to criminals. The hero in "Phantom of the Opera" is a stalker.

"Annie"? She starts out as an orphan, apparently living off the government. That's not a good lesson in personal responsibility.

"Cats" seems tame, until you realize it's about someone going up to the heavens and coming back. We all know only one person has done that.

"Wicked" is about witches, and the Devil himself is in "Damn Yankees."

Even "Grease" has a pregnancy scare in it. Can't promote anything that suggests teenagers are doing it.

Do heathens write all Broadway musicals?

What about "Porgy and Bess"? Well, the great 1935 opera - which is set in Charleston, and was written here - couldn't be performed in the city until 1970. By that reckoning, Summerville won't be ready for Heyward's classic until at least 2043.

But this "Hello, Dolly" - now that shows some promise.

It's basically about the town busybody, sticking her nose in everyone else's business.

That might work.

Of course, Summerville has already seen that act once too often.

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