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‘Chicago’ conflict

Authors win case over original producers

John Kander and Fred Ebb may want to change the name of their hit “Chicago” tune to “And All That Cash.”

An arbitration committee of three decided Friday in their favor, declaring that the original producers of the 1975 musical were not entitled to revenue from the current “Chicago” revival on Broadway.

Plaintiff in the case was the Chicago Co., with general partners identified as Robert Fryer and James Cresson, the two original producers of “Chicago.” In the early 1970s, Fryer and Cresson had signed the minimum basic production contract with the “Chicago” authors (Kander, Ebb and Bob Fosse). Under this old Dramatist Guild contract, original producers were entitled to share in revenue from concert versions but not revivals.

Under the new contract, called the approved production contract, original producers share in revenue from both revivals and concert versions.

The plaintiffs apparently considered the current “Chicago” production a concert version because it originated with the Encore series, which had presented a so-called concert version of the musical that quickly led to its current Broadway incarnation.

Barry and Fran Weissler, producers of the current Broadway production of “Chicago,” were not directly involved in the arbitration. If the arbitrators had settled in favor of the plaintiffs, Kander, Ebb and the estate of Bob Fosse — and not the Weisslers — would have owed part of their revenues from the current “Chicago” production to the original producers.

When called by Daily Variety, Barry Weissler said, “If the plaintiffs had won, the loss could have meant millions of dollars to the authors.”

Steven Hyman of Leavy, Rosensweig & Hyman acted as attorney for the authors. “The impact of this decision limits the legal definition of what a concert is,” said Hyman. “The claimants were attempting to diminish an artistic approach and say (the current production) was a concert because it didn’t have the big sets and lavish costumes of the original. No, that is not the standard. The three arbitrators decided they were not going to measure the production values.”

James Mosher of Fitelson, Lasky, Aslan & Couture repped the plaintiffs. He offered no comment regarding the case.

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