Panel Denies Special Situation Status for Seussical the Musical

Volume C, No. 7/8July, 2000

The panel established under the League/Local 802 agreement to decide “special situation” status has reaffirmed the union’s decision to deny this status to the upcoming Broadway production of Seussical the Musical. The decision was made at a meeting convened on June 9 at the offices of the League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc.

The work – which is being co-produced by SFX Broadway, Incorporated, and Barry and Fran Weissler – is scheduled to go into the Richard Rodgers Theatre in the fall. The producers had proposed that 18 musicians be employed, instead of the contractually required 24.

In arguing for special situation status, the show’s creative team pointed to what they described as the intimate nature of the production and score and to their desire not to employ a traditional orchestra sound, which might include a full string section and a “big band sound.” (A string quartet is utilized, as is a rock horn section.)

Local 802, in arguing against the designation, stressed that nothing in the concept of the show (the score has not yet been written) necessitates any specific size orchestra. In making this argument President Bill Moriarity, who represented Local 802 at the hearing, cited the Special Situation provision in the agreement. It requires that a production be “of a definable musical genre or of a dramatic approach which necessitates a smaller size orchestra” in order to qualify for such status.

Moriarity also pointed out that, while the proposed score was to be written for 17 playing musicians (plus a conductor), information he had received indicated that the score would require 32, or possibly 33, instruments, with the three-person reed section potentially playing 16 instruments.

After hearing arguments the hearing panel deliberated and issued the denial statement, which was signed by all six panel members.

The producers were represented by the show’s general manager, Alan Wasser; its lyricist, Lynn Ahrens; the composer, Stephen Flaherty; and the orchestrator, Douglas Besterman.

The hearing panel was made up of Broadway producer and general manager Nina Lannen and conductor Eric Stern, representing the League; Executive Board members Maura Giannini and Jack Gale representing Local 802; and “neutrals” Paul Gemignani and Danny Troob.