A New York City-based actor and director, Powell told the Los Angeles Times that he had an agreement with composer-lyricist Sheik and librettist-lyricist Jarrow to direct the play, and they didn't make good on the promise. He told the paper that he has e-mails that prove there was an agreement that he would direct the show at The Old Globe in San Diego.
The Old Globe is currently offering the world premiere of Whisper House, a musical about a haunted lighthouse on the East Coast during World War II. Peter Askin directed.
Powell had directed earlier presentations of the pop-rock musical in New York and had come up with certain elements of the world of the musical.
Powell claims that after developmental versions of the show were presented, Sheik and Jarrow said that Powell could not direct it at The Old Globe unless he signed away his rights to the creation of it.
"I didn't sign those rights away," Powell told the Times. "When I found out they had placed the call to the Old Globe about getting a new director, I didn't sign anything." Powell told the L.A. Times that the discussions concern the directing promise as well as creative rights he may have.
Powell plays supporting character Toofer on TV's "30 Rock" and was artistic director of Contemporary Stage Company in Wilmington, DE.
As previously reported on Playbill.com, Powell said that he gave Sheik the idea of a musical set in a haunted lighthouse and helped develop it in meetings and readings. Sheik has said as much, though the current discussion among lawyers seem to focus on the directorial issue.
Sheik told Playbill magazine writer Mervyn Rothstein that the musical started when Powell gave him the idea of creating a theatre work that would involve ghosts and lighthouses. Jarrow wrote a draft, and there was a workshop with no music.
Six months later, in early 2008, "Keith, Kyle and I went down to South Carolina," said Sheik, "and basically came up with a draft of a complete show, with a set of songs." Powell directed a Manhattan reading in 2008, and a New York Stage and Film workshop in 2009.
The idea for the musical was inspired by a day trip Powell took in Maine a few years ago, when he was acting in New England. He toured some local lighthouses and heard ghost stories about the dwellings.
"I called Duncan Sheik and said, 'I don't know exactly what I want to do with you, but I know I want it to include ghosts and lighthouses,'" Powell told Playbill.com in 2008.
Read the Playbill magazine feature about Whisper House here.