‘Lennon’ Deemed a Special Situation

Volume CV, No. 4April, 2005

Soon after the recent troubling arbitration decision in “All Shook Up,” the union was presented with an opportunity to start to define, for future panel cases and for potential future arbitrators, what a Special Situation truly is, and not only what it is not.

The producers of a new show “Lennon,” which presents the late former Beatle John Lennon’s life and philosophy in his words and music, applied for Special Situation status. The show is scheduled to open in July at the Broadhurst Theatre, where the minimum is 12 musicians. The producers sought permission to use 10.

A series of pre-hearing meetings were held, the purpose of which was for the League to provide the union with the rationale for the request and for the union to formulate a position on the request, prior to the submission of the issue to the Special Situations Committee. The parties had found that the removal of the former first step of the prior procedure, i.e., the application to the Local 802 Executive Board, had unwittingly left the parties with no contractual procedure for learning the issues before submission to the committee — making adequate preparation for the hearing virtually impossible. Thus, these informal meetings were scheduled.

At the meetings, union representatives heard the producers’ concept for the show, as well as the orchestrator’s musical “concept” which led them to request permission to perform with 10 musicians rather than 12.

After much discussion, the union felt that it was willing to grant the show Special Situation status for a number of reasons:

  • Many, if not most, of the criterion for Special Situation status are present in this show.
  • We were able to get a consent decision from the committee, which contained the factors listed below and the agreement of the League and the neutral panel on the reasons for the grant of Special Situation status for this show, as based on those factors.
  • We now have a decision which demonstrates what the union believes is a Special Situation show, in contrast to the arbitration decision in “All Shook Up.”
  • The detailed consent decision will now be used by the committee as a template of the kind of written decision called for in the collective bargaining agreement and referred to in the arbitrator’s decision in the “All Shook Up” case.

The factors agreed to by the parties were:

  • The two synthesizers will be used to produce only keyboard sounds, e.g., piano, organ, harpsichord and electronic sound effects, and will neither emulate, augment or reinforce other instruments, strings or otherwise.
  • The horns (sax, trumpet and trombone) will be used to provide colors and variety, will be utilized in approximately 50 percent of the numbers and in those numbers will play solo approximately 50 percent of the time.
  • There is no overture, and the only recorded music will be Lennon’s famous recording of “Imagine.” While there will be minimal underscoring, and some incidental music, no additional instruments or recorded music will be played.
  • No actor will play any instrument per se, except in a manner similar to the number “Power to the People,” in which a few actors, portraying a 1960’s Central Park crowd, will shake tambourines, hit some drums or even play a wooden flute, all of which will be in the nature of sound effects rather than real music making.

Time will tell if and how future applications will be affected by this decision, but it is believed by the union that it will only be positive.

Jack Gale (802), Tino Gagliardi (802), Paul Libin (League), Beth Williams (League) and Jane Hermann (panel neutral) comprised the Special Situations Committee for “Lennon.”