Popular musicals no longer performed in response to Religious Freedom Law

Popular musicals no longer performed in response to Religious Freedom Law

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Musical theater lovers may be disappointed to hear that they cannot see their favorite shows in Mississippi anymore.

Stephen Schwartz, who composed "Wicked," "God Spell" and "Pippin," is refusing to give the rights to his music in response to the Religious Freedom Law.

Musicals from different composers like "Foot Loose" and "West Side Story" are also refusing to release their rights.

This response to the Religious Freedom Law worries teachers and directors at Southern Miss.

"It wouldn't be surprising to me to find that at some point, we might run into the same problems. So far not, but I wouldn't be surprised," Theater Professor Stephen Judd said.

Judd said he respects these artists' efforts and said he thinks this law could have an effect on future theater students.

"Already I think a lot of our students look out, look to leave Mississippi," Judd said.

Pastor Brandiilyne Magnum Dear with Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church said she appreciates the support, but is worried about how this will impact actors in the LGBT community.

"The theater is full of LGBT and young people that want to be part of something spectacular and with the bill, we're being punished twice," Dear said.

Music Licensing company MTI released this statement about releasing the rights of "West Side Story":

"MTI serves as an agent for the rights holders whose shows we represent. The rights holders 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."

However, at the end of the day, the USM Department of Theatre remains optimistic and expects the community to continue to support the arts.

"I think it can be part of our message that we can't do a particular play or musical because of the passage of the bill," Judd said.