Curtain Drops on ‘Fake’ Broadway Producer

     MANHATTAN (CN) — Prosecutors say a New York producer fleeced investors by claiming to have signed Tony-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o for a Broadway play about opera diva Kathleen Battle.
     The indictment of Roland Scahill inspired a paean of puns from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
     “This indictment closes the curtain on Roland Scahill’s phantom production,” Vance said in a statement.
     In a 2009 profile on Scahill, Variety reported that the former William Morris agent’s client roster included the writing duo behind the Emmy-nominated “Robot Chicken,” as well as the creator of Off-Broadway’s “One Man Star Wars Trilogy.”
     Prosecutors say Scahill and his company, RMS2 Productions, began pitching investors two years ago on a supposed play he called the “KB Project.”
     Claiming that he had secured the “life rights” to the story of lyric soprano Kathleen Battle, according to the indictment, Scahill touted contracts with Nyong’o and the Shubert Organization for a run at the historic Booth Theatre.
     As quoted in court papers, Scahill’s “information sheet” to investors pitched a one-woman show about “a fateful day in 1994” when the New York Metropolitan Opera fired its star.
     The information sheet boasts that Battle “agreed not to censor any material put on the stage, allowing for a view of what makes a person be viewed as a ‘diva,’ what did a young African-American girl have to change about herself to be accepted into the classical music community, and what really happens behind closed doors when you are the subject of global gossip.”
     Prosecutors say that Scahill promised seven investors dividends not only from the show, but from subsidiary rights from book and film deals.
     “Ultimately, the victims discovered that the play was a complete farce,” court papers say. “Representatives for Kathleen Battle, Lupita Nyong’o, and the Shubert Organization all confirm that they were never approached by defendant, never contracted with the defendant, and have never heard of the KB Project.”
     In the end, DA Vance said, all the investors got were bounced checks.
     “Even worse, in an attempt to steal additional money from those he had already victimized, Scahill is alleged to have told the investors that he secured a contract with Netflix to film the play and make it available to its millions of subscribers,” Vance said.
     Scahill, 41, could face up to 15 years behind bars if convicted of three felony counts of criminal possession of stolen property, grand larceny and scheme to defraud.
     His attorney James DeVita did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment.
     Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon set the producer’s bail at $100,000 today, and Scahill will appear in court again on Sept. 20.
     Roughly two months later, Battle is scheduled to end her 22-year absence from the Met with a concert of spirituals at the iconic opera house on Nov. 13.

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