Nearly $100,000 spent on salaries, sets, costumes

SOUTHBURY, Conn. — Don’t mess with Elvis.

Waterbury, Conn.’s nonprofit Seven Angels Theater is facing financial ruin after it had to cancel a planned Presley tuner in the face of a threatened lawsuit from Elvis Presley Enterprises.

Semina De Laurentis, the founding a.d. of Seven Angels, is desperately trying to stave off the possible demise of her 12-year-old theater. Some $100,000 was tied up in salaries, sets, costumes, advertising and other pre-opening costs for “The King of Memphis.”

All shook up

On May 5, De Laurentis received a letter from Presley Enterprises, run by Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley, stating that Seven Angels must cancel its production of the show, which was to begin performances Thursday and run through June 8. The show was not licensed by the Presley org.

De Laurentis canceled, and this week is attempting to whip together an alternative musical revue, using the same cast of five, to run May 15-June 8. Seven Angels, which operates on a shoestring budget and under an Actors’ Equity letter-of-agreement contract, performs Thursdays through Sundays in a 350-seat theater in Waterbury’s Hamilton Park.

De Laurentis said the existence of a Broadway-bound Presley show, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” in development for two years and backed by Presley Enterprises, was a factor in the crackdown.

Don’t be cruel

“I was told that it was budgeted at $10 million and that it was in development and was scheduled to open on Broadway in August 2004,” she said, adding she didn’t see how the small show in her little theater could have any impact on such a project. (The aborted show was a revue of songs Elvis sang, intermingled with facts about his life.)

According to coverage of the Seven Angels debacle in the daily Waterbury Republican, another work OK’d by Presley Enterprises, play “The Elvis Story,” is touring in Quebec.

“I thought Elvis Presley was a public figure and that the facts of his life were in public domain,” said De Laurentis, who conceived the show and is best known as a member of the original cast of 1985 Off Broadway hit “Nunsense.” “I’m now told that I was wrong and that Presley’s name, image and life are trademarked.”

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