The Michael Jackson-produced musical Sisterella is battling through a rocky second act. The Larry Hart-penned production-- which opened in Melbourne, Australia, in March--has canceled a scheduled Sydney engagement. Meanwhile, Hart has been targeted with a lawsuit claiming the idea and book of Sisterella are not his property.
Co-producer Kevin Jacobsen confirmed that the show would not open at Sydney’s Capital Theatre on June 27 as planned. He also announced his wish to bring in Australian director Richard Wherrett to rework the production, replacing Larry Hart, who, in addition to claiming authorship of the work, directed and starred in the Melbourne mounting. Hart’s business manager Susan Joseph told Playbill On-line that such an action would be in breach of the performer’s contract.
Hart, meanwhile, is being attacked on another front. An unnamed plaintiff has filed suit in Los Angeles saying he, and not Hart, originated the idea for Sisterella and wrote its book. Frank Sandelman, the party’s attorney, confirmed that the suit existed but would not divulge the name of his client. However, the case bears the name of one Kinsey Vaughn.
Hart was requested to attend a hearing of the case on May 8, but refused, citing his contractual obligation in Australia and a respiratory problem which led to the last-minute cancellation of two performances. Sandelman said a trial date has been set for June 12.
Sisterella is a $6.5 million (Australian dollars), modern take on the Cinderella tale. The musical debuted at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1996 and then, under the wing of Jacobsen, opened at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, Australia, on March 7, 1998. Jacobson had been planning to put together two new companies to open in the United States and Europe in early 1999. Sisterella’s current misfortunes may place a dark cloud over another Jackson-Hart project, PanJam, a stage musical loosely based on the Peter Pan story. Playbill On-line reported in April that the two artists would partner of the show, with Hart writing most of the show's songs, and Jackson contributing a few compositions of his own.