LONG BEACH, CA -- There's a theatrical brouhaha by the beach.
The touring version of The King and I at Long Beach Terrace Theatre Sept. 22-27 is described in ads as the winner of the 1996 Tony for best musical revival -- in other words, as a branch of the same production that earlier played the Orange County Performing Arts Center with Hayley Mills and the Pantages Theatre with Marie Osmond. Likewise, the press release promoting the show in Long Beach touts it as "the national tour of the critically acclaimed Broadway revival."
The musical is part of Long Beach's MasterCard Broadway by the Beach subscription series. Unlike Broadway or official national tours, however, this KIng and I uses actors who are not on an Actors' Equity contract. It's produced by Big League Theatricals instead of the Broadway producers.
"It uses the same costumes and some of the same set pieces as the Broadway rendition, and it has the rights to use the same logo," said a company spokesperson. "However, the director and other behind-the scenes personnel are different."
Equity, which picketed at the same venue last year over a similar non Equity show, may do the same this year, said the union's western regional director, John Holly. "We can't stop them from doing it, and we don't deny that the actors might be talented," he said, "but don't tell the public it's a Broadway show. Don't advertise a Broadway series if you're mixing non Equity casts with full Equity productions." The theatre's general manager, David Gordon, defended the quality of previous non-Equity productions but referred other questions to Pace Theatrical Group, which packages the Broadway by the Beach season.
- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent