Actors' Equity Association will be granting no further concessions to touring companies of Broadway shows, the union stated. The decree followed a large article in Variety in which the trade daily detailed producers' desires to follow in the lucrative footsteps of the tour of 42nd Street, which received considerable concessions from Equity this year due to the large cast size.
In a Sept. 23 press release (the same day the Variety article came out), Equity executive director Alan Eisenberg said, "Until there is further dialogue with the council and our very concerned membership, there will be no special contracts for first national tours."
The "very concerned membership" referenced recent petitions campaigning against a possible road deal for Thoroughly Modern Millie. Eisenberg told Playbill On-Line that more than 375 names had been gathered. "The consensus is that we should not be doing these special agreements," he said of the petitions, "and that the actors would rather lose work than have their salaries reduced."
The petitions reportedly surfaced when cast members of Thoroughly Modern Millie got wind of the producers' intention to win concessions for the first national tour of the show. The performers circulated petitions against such a move among the actors in Millie and other Broadway shows.
The producers of Millie have teamed with those of the new tours of Oliver!, Oklahoma! and Sweet Charity to negotiate en masse with the performers' union, Variety reported (though no talks have begun as of yet). Broadway moneymen see the 42nd Street deal as a landmark pact which could pave the way for cheaper costs on the road. Eisenberg, however, pointed out to Variety that 42nd Street touted 55 cast members, a number other Broadway musicals would be hard pressed to match. 42nd Street thespians earned only $600 a week, less than half of the usual $1,302. They do, however, benefit in the form of salary bumps if the musical produces "overage" profits—that is, monies above operating costs. According to Eisenberg, actors share among themselves seven and one half percent of the overage (e.g., $7.500 of every $100,000 in overage).
Of the four shows set to negotiate together, the crowd pleasing, Tony winner Millie is the hottest road property. Not surprisingly, Equity has focused on the show, saying "We are categorically stating that Thoroughly Modern Millie will go out on a production contract if it goes out before June 2004—or it will go not go out on a union contract."
The latter option is a possibility. The tour producers of The Music Man broke with the union two years ago and sent out a non-Equity tour which did well financially, in spite occasional protests from union members.
According Equity, the union made repeated attempts to bargain with Big League, the company which handled the Music Man tour, but received no response. Furthermore, Big League never made a request for concessions, said Eisenberg.