Sides in Broadway music feud sing clashing tunes

Broadway’s producers and musicians squared off in separate shows of determination Wednesday, but they ultimately agreed to meet Sunday afternoon, the day their current pact expires.

The negotiations will be the first full committee meeting since talks broke down Aug. 12, although reps from Local 802 of the Musicians’ Union and the League of American Theaters & Producers met in early September to discuss the continuing roadblock of orchestra-size minimums.

Both sides on Wednesday declared a desire to negotiate, but neither seemed to budge on what one producer, in an understatement, called “the contentious and thorny issue.”

An hour before a noontime union rally in Times Square, a group of more than 20 producers and theater owners — representing every musical on Broadway or expected this fall — attended a press conference organized to counter labor’s demonstration.

Gerald Schoenfeld, Shubert Organization chairman and chief negotiator for the producers, told reporters the press confab was called “so you can place whatever you hear from Local 802 into some context.”

What reporters and Times Square passers-by heard from the Musicians’ Union local was vehement resistance to the producers’ proposal to reduce minimum orchestra sizes, in some cases by 40%.

Carrying signs that read “Jelly Doesn’t Jam Without Live Musicians” and “Don’t Let Live Music Become the Phantom of Broadway,” an estimated 200 union members heard 802 president and chief negotiator Bill Moriarity proclaim the musical theater orchestra “under attack.”

But producers argue that the current minimums are antiquated holdovers from a pre-synthesizer era that only serve to pad the union costs of already expensive Broadway fare.

The union has received preliminary strike authorization from its executive board. A ratification vote by members was scheduled to follow the rally, but results won’t compiled until today.

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