NEW YORK – The lights are on, the curtains are up and Broadway's actors and producers have a new labor agreement.
Actors' Equity Association (search) and the League of American Theatres and Producers (search) reached a tentative settlement Monday on a new four-year production contract, an agreement hammered out after lengthy and often acrimonious negotiations.
"Leadership from both sides will be meeting (Tuesday) to finalize the details of the contract," the two sides said Monday in a joint statement. "The Equity Council (the union's governing body) will review the agreement and will make a recommendation."
Specific details may not be known until Wednesday, said League spokeswoman Kelly Sullivan.
The negotiations had gone on for some time, even after the union's contract with the League expired June 27 and the threat of a strike loomed. Shows continued to play both on Broadway and on the road as both sides talked.
Although health care benefits and actors' safety were major concerns, at the center of the dispute was the question of non-Equity tours, which have been gaining in number over the last several years.
The union wants to limit these tours, which use less experienced actors who work for a lower pay scale. The League apparently was willing to stop licensing such tours but in exchange wanted salary concessions for tours of shows that were not ready-made blockbusters, musicals such as "The Lion King," "The Producers" (search) and "Hairspray." (search)
Over the weekend, producers of "The Boy From Oz," the musical starring Hugh Jackman (search) as Australian entertainer Peter Allen, agreed to a temporary contract with the union, thus breaking ranks with other League members.
"The Boy From Oz," which closes Sept. 12, has been doing strong business since the June 6 Tony Awards, which featured its star, Hugh Jackman, as host. A shutdown during the show's last weeks on Broadway would have cut off profits for a musical trying to recoup its $9 million production costs.
The Kennedy Center's production of "The Glass Menagerie," starring Sally Field (search), also signed an agreement, Maria Somma, an Equity spokeswoman, said. The revival of the Tennessee Williams (search) classic, now in rehearsal, begins performances in Washington, D.C., July 17 for a run through Aug. 8.
The Kennedy Center was placed in an odd situation with "Menagerie," which is part of the Center's summer Williams festival. Even though the engagement was for a limited run, one-theater-only production, the Center agreed to terms usually reserved for Broadway or major touring productions. A strike would have shut the show down, said Tiki Davies, a Kennedy Center spokeswoman.
More than a dozen Broadway musicals went dark in March 2003 for four days after the musicians' union walked out, and theaters lost more than $5 million in revenue.