How the Grinch Saved Christmas for Musicians

Volume CVI, No. 12December, 2006

Harvey Mars

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Musicians performing in the show “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” won an agreement that in some ways beats the Broadway contract. Photo by Gary Schoichet.

The Grinch may try to steal Christmas, but he gave musicians a great gift this year. Dr. Seuss’ holiday classic “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” has arrived on Broadway at the Hilton Theatre, and Local 802 has forged an unprecedented settlement agreement with the producer.

The agreement was the product of a grievance submitted by the union asserting that because the show was mounted in a Broadway theatre, the full terms of the Broadway contract applied. But the final result was an agreement that in some respects is superior to the Broadway agreement.

First and foremost, musicians performing in this production will have right of first refusal in perpetuity when the show is brought back to New York, in any venue over which Local 802 has jurisdiction – meaning the five boroughs plus Long Island.

This provision, called “identity of product,” extends far beyond what is currently the practice under the Broadway contract, which extends identity of product only to Broadway theatres.

Since it is anticipated that this show will be a lucrative one, everyone is hopeful that it will one day become a holiday staple complementing the Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular and will provide long-term steady employment for union musicians.

Additionally, all contractual premiums will be payable to the musician actually performing during any premium performance regardless of whether the musician is a regular or substitute. (The comparable provision in the Broadway contract is somewhat ambiguous on this issue.)

Overtime will commence after 90 minutes, rather than the three hours contained in the Broadway agreement.

In exchange, musicians have compromised on wages and have agreed to accept an amount moderately less than full Broadway rate, but which is equivalent to Broadway straight-time for an average 12-performance week, once all contractual premiums are applied.

Musicians made this compromise due to the show’s short 72-minute length, its limited run during the holiday season, and the fact that the average number of performances each week is a hefty 12.

In all other respects the Broadway contract will apply.

It is significant to note that the wages achieved by Local 802 were significantly better than rates achieved by the other theatrical unions involved in the production.

As Allegro went to press, there was still one unresolved grievance concerning the number of musicians that the production is required to employ. The producer is using 15 musicians, four less than the minimum required at the Hilton.

The show is being produced by Mean One Productions along with Dr. Seuss’ widow Audrey Stone Dimond and the production company Live Nation.

Negotiation of this agreement presented significant challenges since it was the first time that a production with a schedule of 12 performances per week had ever been put up in a Broadway theatre. However, due to the unique nature of the production, an acceptable compromise was achieved.

Theatre Committee Co-Chair Tino Gagliardi, Principal Theatre Rep Mary Donovan, Assistant to the President Bill Rohdin and I all assisted in this negotiation.

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Clockwise from top left, David Roth, Terry Cook Wayne DuMaine and Rob Fournier. Photos by Gary Schoichet.