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Take Note: Students stage a comeback

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Entertainment magazines might headline this story "Robot Rocker: Bomb in Britain, Boffo at Bowie High."

In the 1980's, a stage musical version of "Metropolis"--a classic silent science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang--opened on the London stage alongside "Aspects of Love," a play penned by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

One won international fame.

The other, the Academy Award-winning composer Joe Brooks's "Metropolis," has since been performed only in theater workshops. Mr. Brooks won Oscars for the scores to "The Garden of the Finzii Continis" and "Marjoe."

Enter Eleanor Minor, a teacher at Bowie (Md.) High School in the suburbs of Washington, who was searching for a play to showcase the vocal talents of some graduating seniors.

But securing permission to stage "Metropolis" required some international detective work.

Eventually, after tracking down a compact-disk recording of the London cast, she dashed off a missive to Mr. Brooks, saying: "We heard your cd. We'd like to do your show. We understand that the rights are unavailable. Can we have them?"

Mr. Brooks was skeptical, so Ms. Minor sent him videotapes of student performances from "Miss Saigon" and "Les Miserables," plays musically and dramatically similar to "Metropolis."

The videotapes persuaded Mr. Brooks to consent and even coaxed him to appear at a V.I.P. reception last month at the opening of the play's well-attended, three-weekend run.

Mr. Brooks "absolutely loved it," Ms. Minor said. He now plans limited runs of "Metropolis" in Germany and Japan before perhaps opening in New York.

Ms. Minor, meanwhile, admits that she doesn't know if the play is faithful to the 1926 original.

"Honestly, I've never seen the movie," she says. "I'm not a sci-fi fan at all."

--Peter West

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