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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Man of La Mancha’ Fight Plays Out in Court

MANHATTAN (CN) - The three estates who share the copyrights to the 1965 musical "Man of La Mancha" brought their internal feud over a planned stage revival to Manhattan federal court.

On Monday, Abby Leigh and Martha Wasserman, representing the estates of "Man of La Mancha" playwrights Mitch Leigh and Dale Wasserman, sued the estate of lyricist Joe Darion for allegedly sandbagging their majority decision to run a major stage revival of the play in the West End of London or on Broadway in New York City.

The lawsuit accused Hellen Darion, the 101 year-old widow of the "Man of La Mancha" lyricist, and her accountant Alan Honig of tortious interference and breach of fiduciary duty for refusing to recognize the plaintiffs' majority rule over the play's grand rights and threatening legal action against the producer of the stage revival.

According to the complaint, a production contract established that the grand rights are jointly controlled by the interests held by Leigh, Wasserman, and Darion or their successors. The contract stipulated that decisions are to be made by majority vote of the three parties.

"As a result of the wrongful and malicious actions of defendants Alan S. Honig and Hellen S. Darion, the major stage producers have refused to move forward unless plaintiffs Abby Leigh and Martha Wasserman indemnify the major stage producers for the risk of litigation and potential for damage caused by defendants," the lawsuit states.

The complaint seeks a judgment declaring that Leigh and Wasserman's revival of "Man of La Mancha" is not copyright infringement and reinforcing the majority rule established in the production contract.

They seek at least $75,000 including punitive damages, and are represented by Tamar Wise of Cozen O'Connor in New York City.

Defense attorney Ira Sacks with Akerman LLP told Courthouse News that Leigh and Wasserman have "engaged in unlawful acts that threaten to destroy the value" of "Man of La Mancha," and that they have entered into agreements that will "cede creative control of the play."

"Entering into the agreements — ceding creative control and on terms to which the authors never agreed during their lifetimes and to which no reasonable author would agree — will permanently destroy the value of ['Man of La Mancha']. That cannot be permitted," Sacks said in a statement.

In 1992, Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh staged a Broadway revival of "Man of La Mancha" over the objection of Dale Wasserman, who filed a copyright infringement claim in Manhattan federal court, fighting against the majority decision.

A judge upheld the view that two of the three authors could license the play's rights for stage revivals and other productions of "Man of La Mancha."

The family of "Man of La Mancha" playwright Mitch Leigh also sued Honig in Manhattan federal court last year, alleging that the accountant wrongfully siphoned off $4.5 million of the family's assets he managed between 1995 and 2015.

Honig denied the allegations and the case was settled for an undisclosed amount, according to the New York Post.

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