Copyright row puts skids under school's version of 'Grease'

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The Independent Online
PUPILS from an Essex comprehensive have been told they cannot perform their school musical for fellow-students in Germany because they might take business from professional productions.

When Clacton County High School put on Grease in July, the owners of the copyright granted them a licence only on condition that there was no write-up in the local newspaper and that no one unconnected with the school was allowed to attend. The incident might have seemed mildly flattering, but now a long-standing plan for a one-night performance at the Wieland Gymnasium in Biberach, which is twinned with the Essex town, has had to be cancelled.

A request to take the show to Germany was met with a peremptory note refusing permission and an appeal to its United States agent, International Creative Management in New York, brought no joy. James Merillat, of the firm's musicals department, wrote that the response had been 'an emphatic no'.

No one at the company could be contacted yesterday, but a spokesman told an Essex newspaper that there were a limited number of licences for productions of Grease, even amateur ones, and that these had already been allocated. Now rehearsals have had to be stopped, and staff and pupils in the German school told that the November show cannot go on. Gregory West, director and drama teacher, said Biberach had already sent two school productions and a concert orchestra to Essex and was eagerly awaiting a return visit.

'I am talking about doing one night in a town in southern Germany with a population of 27,000 people, and the show is only going to be of interest to pupils and parents of the school we are twinned with. Now I have to go back to 28 kids who are re-rehearsing and say we are not going,' he said.

Sarah Chillingworth, aged 14, plays the leading lady, Sandy. She said all the cast was bitterly disappointed.

'We are all upset. I doesn't seem fair when we have been rehearsing so hard, she said.

The school still plans a trip to London, however, to see the West End show.