The Actors’ Equity Association is taking aim at “Rocktopia” after it has not provided an Equity contract for its chorus members.
“Rocktopia,” a concert that features mashups of classical and rock music, is scheduled to play six weeks at the Broadway Theatre beginning March 20. The producers of “Rocktopia” are not contractually required to use an Equity contract, however, Equity has been pushing for its involvement in contracts whenever its members are involved.
In turn, the producers of “Rocktopia” have said that Equity does not have “jurisdiction” over their production and said they had suggested their own financial arrangement which they felt was “fair and reasonable.”
In emails sent to Equity members Tuesday, the union urged members to leave one-star reviews on “Rocktopia’s” Facebook page and speak about the lack of an Equity contract, given the show’s presence on Broadway.
“Producers are advertising this as a Broadway show and charging Broadway ticket prices – but their Broadway Chorus isn’t being offered an Equity contract. In fact, we’ve heard from members who have reported being offered as low as $215 for a week of Chorus work,” the email reads.
The union later said reviews were disabled on the Facebook page and instead urged their members to turn to Twitter.
The show is being produced on Broadway by William Franzblau, as executive producer, and Maggie Seidel-Laws, as associate producer, in association with Hughes Wall LLC.
In a statement to Broadway News, the producers of “Rocktopia” noted that it is not a typical Broadway show and is instead a “musical concert, one with no actors appearing on stage.”
“With that in mind, and in respect of AEA’s long history of negotiation with “non-legitimate” attractions for specific terms when appearing on Broadway, the Producers suggested a fair and reasonable and financially viable arrangement, given the nature of the show and its limited run, which AEA rejected. The Producers have great respect for Equity and are still hoping to come to a fair and equitable agreement upon hearing further from the union,” the statement reads.
In response, Equity said its last proposal that involved union contracts had been rejected by “Rocktopia” and that it did not agree with the current financial situation.
“The hundreds of Equity members who spoke out today made it very clear that there is nothing reasonable about offering $215 a week while also not covering all of the performers with Equity contracts,” Brandon Lorenz, a spokesperson for Equity, said in a statement.
On Wednesday, “Rocktopia” posted on their Facebook page to say that the show is a touring production that uses the same lead vocalists and rock band, but then calls upon local singers to make up its 35-person choir in each city as well as a local orchestra. They also called the back-and-forth with Equity “incredibly distressing.”
The typical Equity agreement for “first-class Broadway productions,” which largely means traditional plays and musicals on Broadway, was negotiated with The Broadway League. Therefore only producers who are members of the League are required to use those contracts, according to Tom Carpenter, eastern regional director and general counsel for Actors’ Equity.
However, when a show like “Rocktopia” comes to Broadway with producers who are not members of the League, Equity reaches out and tries to negotiate individual agreements with those producers. That was the case for “Home for the Holidays,” which used an Equity contract after the union reached out, Carpenter said.
Carpenter acknowledges that these shows are not contractually obligated to follow Equity contracts. However, the issue is something Equity has been “prioritizing” after receiving member feedback and after more concerts have been coming to Broadway.
“Our membership has spoken loud and clear that they want their union to be more assertive,” Carpenter said.
Though “Rocktopia” says there are “no actors on stage,” Carpenter said he believes there are a few Equity members working on “Rocktopia.”
The Broadway League considers “Rocktopia” part of the Broadway season and it will report weekly grosses alongside other Broadway shows.
Tickets for “Rocktopia” range between $49 to $157, according to Telecharge.
In addition to the chorus and musicians, the show will feature a mixture of opera, Broadway and rock stars including Pat Monahan, lead singer of “Train,” who will be in the show for the first three weeks, as well as Broadway’s Tony Vincent and opera singer Alyson Cambridge.