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B’way ‘Beast’ tuner slims union crew

Show cools down pyrotechnics

Shows that close and then quickly reappear on Broadway usually leave some participants whistling a less monied tune.

Following in the footsteps of “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “Beauty and the Beast” shed some union-member employees when Disney Theatricals reopened a slightly retooled version on Nov. 12 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater. None of those out of work, however, happened to be musicians, all 25 of whom were in the pit playing “Be Our Guest” for the 2,252th time.

Local 802 inked an agreement with Disney that not only kept the same number of musicians but continued those union members’ benefits and gave them two weeks’ salary for the 10 weeks it took the producers to transfer the musical from the Palace to the slightly smaller Lunt-Fontanne. In an interview with Daily Variety, Local 802 president William Moriarty had said in September that the musicians union enjoyed “a run-of-the-play contract” with Disney. The union sought the full 10 weeks’ pay, but in the end settled for two.

The union also had grievances with pyrotechnics in the production that, according to its members, caused air-quality problems. “Those effects have been replaced with lighting effects,” said Moriarty.

Scale-down produces cuts

All IATSE “pink contract” stagehands hired by the producers at the Palace remained employed to facilitate the transfer to the Lunt-Fontanne. Last week, however, Tony De Paulo, Local One theater business manager, predicted, “If they cut equipment and scenery is scaled down, there will be cuts in employment for Local One members.” Apparently, reductions were made in the production, resulting in the termination of four Local One members when “Beauty and the Beast” reopened.

Alan Eisenberg, executive director of Actors Equity, verified that the “B&B” company, including actors and stage managers, had been reduced from 43 to 38. The thesp union’s contract with the League of American Theaters and Owners essentially views any show that shuts down for more than six weeks as a new production if and when it reopens.

“When our contract comes up for negotiation next year, we intend to change that,” Eisenberg said of the six-week period.

While Disney is not a member of the league, “Beauty and the Beast” opened originally at a league-affiliated house, the Nederlanders’ Palace Theater, and so operates under the league contract and guidelines.

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