Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group Sues Michael Cohl Over Canceled Jesus Christ Superstar Tour

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29 Jul 2014

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Really Useful Group, the producing and rights licensing company that oversees the works of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, has announced plans to take legal action against producer-promoter Michael Cohl following the collapse of a U.S. arena tour of Jesus Chris Superstar earlier this year.

In a statement released July 29, RUG confirmed that action was being taken against Cohl's Options Clause Entertainment after an announced U.S. arena tour of Superstar was canceled just days before performances were to begin last spring.

RUG stated that it "has no option but to proceed with legal action to recover its costs associated with the project and in turn, satisfy outstanding payments to suppliers and contractors."

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Cohl also addressed the arena tour, characterizing the project as a "disaster" and said "ticket sales were terrible." At the time, representatives for the production declined to elaborate on reasons for the last-minute cancellation. The production was to be based on a U.K. tour of the musical that was presented last year. Cast members, who had been rehearsing portions of the tour, were caught off guard by the cancellation, which was announced May 30. The tour was slated to commence June 9 in New Orleans. 

The cast was to be led by Ben Forster, who played the role of Jesus in the U.K. tour of Superstar after winning the ITV "Superstar" competition. He was to be joined by Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child and Fela! as Mary Magdalene, NSYNC band member JC Chasez as Pontius Pilot, the Sex Pistols' John (Rotten) Lydon as King Herod and Incubus' Brandon Boyd as Judas Iscariot.



Directed by Laurence O'Connor, who has also re-envisioned the returns of Miss Saigon, Les Miserables and the new tour of Phantom, the tour had booked engagements across the U.S., including New York City's Madison Square Garden Aug. 5. Additional cities planned include Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Atlanta, GA; Nashville, TN; Austin, TX; Toronto, ON; Detroit, MI; Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA; Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas, NV; Boston, MA; and Philadelphia, PA.

According to RUG, Cohl "had agreed to be the promoter of this tour and under the terms of the agreement was responsible for all of the costs associated with the US dates. Since Mr Cohl's unilateral decision to cancel the tour, The Really Useful Group has been tirelessly working to find an out of court settlement of the costs incurred by cancellation at such a late stage."

Barney Wragg, CEO of RUG, issued the following statement, "The Really Useful Group is hugely disappointed to be let down in this way particularly taking into account the impact (both personal and financial) that it has had on the many people who have put so much hard work into this project. We had a sell-out UK Arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar in 2012 and, in 2013, the same production toured Australia also playing to capacity audiences with unprecedented success."

Cohl also produced the much-in-the-press $75 million musical Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark as well as A Night With Janis Joplin, Rock of Ages and November on Broadway.