Union initiates disputes over Tharp musical

The American Guild of Musical Artists, the union that reps ballet dancers in the U.S., has filed unfair labor practice charges against Troika Entertainment over the upcoming Broadway production of Twyla Tharp dance-ical “Come Fly Away.”

Org also has initiated a jurisdictional dispute proceeding with the 4A’s, the federation of trade unions for U.S. performing arts workers, over the fact that the New York staging of “Come Fly,” which opens in the spring, has moved ahead under the Broadway production contract between the Broadway League and Actors’ Equity, when AGMA handled the out-of-town tryout of “Come Fly” in Atlanta. (Both AGMA and Equity are affiliated with the 4A’s, as is SAG.)

While Troika produced the Atlanta preem of “Come Fly” in the fall (when the show was titled “Come Fly With Me”), the Broadway staging is produced by a different team led by James L. Nederlander, prexy of Rialto producer and theater owner the Nederlander Org, and Troika.

AGMA’s filing with the federal agency NLRB alleges Troika flouted obligations to AGMA in jumping to Equity in the move to the Main Stem.

Alan Gordon, exec director of AGMA, characterized the Equity production contract as insufficient for the needs of dancers, and said it undermined AGMA labor demands for the show that included higher compensation, creative royalties for cast members, and raises for performers nommed for a Tony.

Nederlander, one of signators of the production contract between the Broadway League and Equity, regularly produces Main Stem offerings under the Equity agreement.

The dispute overseen by the 4A’s, the union federation formally known as the Associated Actors and Artistes of America, is in some ways similar to a spat that occurred over “Movin’ Out,” Tharp’s dance-centric Tony winner that opened on Broadway in 2002.

AGMA initiated a similar dispute when that show was initially produced under the Equity production contract. The 4A’s eventually determined that the show fell under AGMA jurisdiction, but Equity was tasked with administering and enforcing the bargained agreement for the production.

Regarding the “Come Fly” dustup, Equity’s acting exec director, Carol Waaser, said, “It’s important to us to make sure that our collective bargaining agreement for Broadway is not undermined.” She added that health and safety issues for Broadway dancers have long been monitored by Equity, with a sub-group that focuses specfically on the needs of chorus performers.

Decisions made by the 4A’s regarding union jurisdiction are not legally binding for producers.

The timeline for proceedings with both the NLRB and the 4A’s remains indeterminate. The NLRB’s decision on the unfair labor practice charges will likely come in the next few months, while the 4A’s decision could longer.

Producers of “Come Fly” declined to comment. Show is slated to begin previews March 1 ahead of a March 25 opening at the Marquis Theater.

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