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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Broadway Tribute Could Cost Regional Theater

(CN) - A Pennsylvania theater company should have paid Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and others before it gave its regards to Broadway, the licensing agents for other composers claim in court.

The musical revue "Broadway: Now and Forever" opened at the 1,600-seat American Music Theatre in Lancaster, Pa., on April 16 this year and is expected to close two weeks from now on Oct. 12.

A compendium of 40 songs from 17 Broadway musicals, the revue features music from - and drew the ire of the makers of - "The Producers," "Mary Poppins," "The Lion King," "Spider-Man," "West Side Story," "Annie," "Les Miserables," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "Evita," "Cats," and "The Phantom of the Opera."

The organizations behind these shows filed two federal complaints in Pennsylvania.

Disney is the lead plaintiff on the first complaint, filed Sept. 24 by Wilson Brown of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization receives top billing on the second, filed Sept. 26 by M. Kelly Tillery of Pepper Hamilton LLP.

Wonderland Music Company, Cameron Mackintosh, Marvel Characters and Musical Theatre International joined Disney in leveling several copyright and trademark violations along with claims of unjust enrichment and unfair trade practices.

Separately, Rogers & Hammerstein, Musical Theatre International and the Really Useful Group allege 15 counts of copyright infringement.

In addition to its founding fathers' classics, Rogers & Hammerstein also own the rights to musicals by legendary composer Irving Berlin. Musical Theatre International meanwhile licenses hits like "Les Miserables" and "The Producers." Really Useful Group is the licensing arm for Andrew Lloyd Webber shows.

Defendants in that action include the Entertainment Theatre Group, which does business as American Music Theatre, and its general partners Dwight Brubaker, James Martin and Frederick Steudler.

The American Music Theatre has not issued a statement about the lawsuits, and tickets for the remaining performances continue to be sold.

According to the Rogers & Hammerstein lawsuit, the Pennsylvania theatre "incredibly" claimed that their use of the songs qualified as "fair use."

"Plaintiffs, through their counsel, provided a thorough rebuttal of that assertion," their 49-page complaint asserts.

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