'Gold' case settled out of court

Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman announced late Friday that their dispute with Scott Rudin regarding the rights to their long-gestating musical “Gold!” had been settled out of court.

Over the past few years, Rudin and three other producers had paid approximately $640,000 toward the development of the show, tentatively titled “Wise Guys,” which had its first workshop production in fall 1999 under the direction of Sam Mendes at the New York Theater Workshop. Show details the exploits of the real-life Misner brothers, two Florida real estate tycoons of the turn of the century.

Claiming rights to the show, Rudin sent cease-and-desist letters to Chicago’s Goodman Theater last fall when he learned that the Chi-based theater company planned the world premiere of the musical, now retitled “Gold!,” for its 2002-03 season with Hal Prince at the helm. Sondheim and Weidman then sued Rudin for wrongful interference in that production. Even though New York Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman issued a temporary restraining order against the producer on Dec. 4, Rudin counter-sued for breach of contract, asking for damages of $8 million.

In a written statement, Sondheim and Weidman said, “We are pleased to have this lawsuit behind us and we are now looking forward to developing the show with our director, Hal Prince, and its eventual production.”

As for financial terms of the settlement, they said, “In order to avoid protracted litigation, at some future undetermined date, Mr. Rudin may receive a fraction of the amounts he originally demanded in litigation.”

Under the terms of the agreement, “Gold!” may be produced at the Goodman Theater or any other not-for-profit venue without the authors reimbursing Rudin. But if the musical is staged commercially, Sondheim and Weidman would first have to pay Rudin his entire investment of approximately $160,000.

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