The Playgoer: "Ragtime" & "Urinetown" dispute updates

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Monday, July 07, 2008

"Ragtime" & "Urinetown" dispute updates

Two stories out of the midwest today on Playbill.

1) That Urinetown "director's copyright" lawsuit was finally officially settled last Wednesday. An Akron, OH dinner theatre allegedly modeled their production so closely on the Broadway staging and design that they have now fessed up in this statement:

"The Carousel Dinner Theatre ... acknowledge[s] that there were similarities in creative, original elements between the Akron production of Urinetown: The Musical and the Broadway production of director John Rando, choreographer John Carrafa, lighting designer Brian MacDevitt, costume designer Gregory Gale, and scenic and environmental designer Scott Pask (the 'Broadway Production Team'). The Akron Production Team also acknowledges creative contributions from the Akron cast."
According to Playbill, the agreement also stipulates that Carousel will now pay a licensing fee ("an undisclosed sum") to the "Broadway Production Team."

This certainly is a victory for the original artists, and that's good in principle. But I sense the greater value of this precedent will be for commercial producers in the touring market. They will have the greatest financial interest in protecting the look of the original Broadway product, when they take it to cities around the country.

2) Looks like Wilmette, IL might finally get to see (or hear) some version of the Ragtime concert version originally planned for the outdoor Gibson Park venue--which was hastily canceled at the last minute when the presenters read the script and found the word "nigger" there. (And because the production would not alter Terence McNally's libretto, canceled it was.)

Now the local 198-seat Wilmette Theatre (an old movie house) has stepped in and offered their more modest space. Usually just "a multi-disciplinary venue that offers movies, children's theatre, lectures, comedy, plays and more," it's a heartening gesture, showing how meaningful genuine "community theatre" can still be.

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