Houdini the Musical Loses Theater Before Opening

The Stage (UK) reports the much anticipated Houdini the Musical lost its home before it could even open.

The Ambassador Theatre Group (“ATG”) removed the new show from its Spring line-up “after an investigation revealed that the show was intending not to pay its cast and crew for rehearsals or performances at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent.”

Houdini the Musical’s producers Shattered Nerve Studios Ltd were booked into the Regent Theatre for a week-long run in March 2009.  In anticipation of that premiere, the producers auditioned performers on “the condition that, if employed, they would not be paid for rehearsals and performances from January to March 2009 inclusive.”

The producers were quick to point out performers would be paid “if the show was successful and embarked on a national tour after its run in Stoke.”

But until the show was a success — or at least road worthy — performers would receive only “expenses, a one-off fee for a cast recording and pay for any outreach and education work they undertook alongside the show.”

Houdini would not have worked for free.  Even as a young performer he demanded $12 per week for 20 shows per day.  But then again, he did not sing.

The Actors’ Equity warned that this arrangement “would have been in breach of minimum pay legislation and subject to legal challenge.”

ATG, owner of the famous Regent Theatre, told reporters it was not aware of the proposed conditions of employment when it accepted the booking.  “On learning from The Stage of the producers’ plans to not pay the cast and crew, the Regent Theatre pulled out of its agreement with Shattered Nerve.”

As for its side of the story, the producers claims the musical’s cast and crew “have been deprived of the opportunity to secure future paid work – if the show was successful – and that a children’s charity, which would have received a percentage of ticket sales, has also lost out.

“It has meant that 20-odd performers, 40 or 50 crew members and a charity have lost out on this production not going ahead. Lots of people would have benefitted from what we were doing. We were being honest, up-front and open. No one was going to lose out.

“The ideal thing would have been that paid work would have followed, which would have been in line with the unions. As it stands, this isn’t going to happen.

“Who does this benefit? It’s a shame. We were trying something new. The project is by no means dead, but we are withdrawing it from the market place and re-evaluating how we put it on.”

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