The legit musicians union was primed to picket the first perf of Off Broadway musical “The Joys of Sex” over the use of the Sinfonia virtual orchestra at the Variety Arts Theater Tuesday night, but a late-afternoon deal averted the protest and had union band members playing “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” outside the theater instead.
The union and the producers came to an agreement that the Sinfonia could be used at the Variety Arts by mutual consent. Producers will have to seek permission on a case-by-case basis.
Local 802 objected to the tuner’s use of the Sinfonia in its orchestra pit. Union prexy David Lennon called it “a virtual orchestra machine” that replaces live musicians. The Sinfonia’s maker, Jeffrey Lazarus of Realtime Music Solution, calls it “the next-generation synthesizer.”
Seeking to make their case before the press, producers of “The Joys of Sex” held an open rehearsal Tuesday to give reporters a sampling.
The company performed two songs, “I Need It Bad” and “The Vault,” and the invited press could hear drums, bass guitar and what seemed to be a synthesizer. There was also a peculiar gurgling noise. Overall, the machine sounded very electronic.
Although the union accused producer Ben Sprecher of using the Sinfonia to replace musicians, the show actually employs three live players: a drummer, bass guitar and the Sinfonia keyboardist. Three musicians is standard for Off Broadway tuners.
“The Joys of Sex” is a new musical by Melissa Levis and David Weinstein, and Weinstein insisted he composed the score specifically for drums, bass guitar and Sinfonia. “We’re talking about artistic freedom,” he said. “I chose the Sinfonia to make the show what I want it to be.”
But he acknowledged, “It has been a rocky road for the Sinfonia.”
The instrument/machine was at the center of last year’s musician strike on Broadway.