Let it never be said that Rob Becker can't defend his Caveman.
Yesterday, in Manhattan Southern District Court, a jury decided Becker was not guilty of reneging on a contract with producer Mitchell Maxwell to house Caveman in the Union Square Theatre, instead of the Helen Hayes Theatre, where the long-running show eventually landed.
The jury of eight deliberated for only 18 minutes, said Becker's attorney, Ronald Feiner. "We always knew that Rob Becker's position was absolutely correct," Feiner told Playbill On-Line. Maxwell's counsel, Gary Greenberg, had no comment.
The civil trial began on Jan. 19. Judge Allen Schwartz presided over the case, titled Liberty v. Becker. Maxwell contended that Caveman should have played in the Union Square, which Maxwell manages, instead of the Hayes, the show's home for most of its Broadway run. Back in 1994, according to the suit, Becker and his producer Robin Tate met with plaintiffs Maxwell and Alan Schuster in Chicago in the summer of 1994. There, they worked out a contract to house Caveman in the Union Square. Further discussion brought a "binding agreement." The suit cited as proof an Oct. 3, 1994 story in Variety which announced that the show would "begin an open-ended run at the Union Square Theatre."
Problems arose in late 1994 when, said the plaintiffs, Becker became worried about waiting out the stay of the Union Square's then-tenant, the popular Vita and Virginia. Vita didn't close until March 19, 1995; Becker's agent insisted their contract with Maxwell promised the theatre would be available by March 1. Maxwell denied that such a clause existed. Maxwell and Schuster were not happy about losing a big hit to another theatre. They asked for $700,000 -- damages covering every week the Union Square was unoccupied from the date Caveman opened on Broadway. Included in that figure was revenue from license fees, a cut of the show's net profit, telephone ticket order service fees and concession stand income.
Defending the Caveman stands as the most successful, non musical, solo show in Broadway history. When it closed on June 21, 1997, it had played 671 performances. Its tour has since criss-crossed the nation.
Another suit brought against Becker by Peggy Klaus, a former director of the revue, has been settled, said Feiner. "For now, Rob is law-suit free."
-- By Robert Simonson