The complaint in the Supreme Court of the State of New York seeks "damages on behalf of world-famous performers Beverly Lee of The Shirelles, Dionne Warwick and Chuck Jackson, as well as the Estates of [original Shirelles] Doris Coley Jackson and Addie Harris Jackson, for the unauthorized use of their names and likenesses in connection with the new Broadway show, Baby It's You!"
The complaint alleges that the producers of the biographical musical — Warner Bros. Theater Ventures, Inc., Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Broadway Baby, LLC. — "have promoted the musical publicly as 'The Shirelles' Musical' and based the play upon the life and career of The Shirelles, Ms. Warwick and Mr. Jackson."
A spokesman with Warner Bros. corporate communications told Playbill.com, "We are not yet in receipt of such a lawsuit, and we have no further comment at this time."
"The Plaintiffs, having been cheated out of their royalties once already when they were young, are being victimized again, as they are forced to see their names, likenesses and biographical information being used without their consent," Baker Hostetler partner Oren Warshavsky, who filed the complaint, said in a statement.
The musical tells the story of New Jersey housewife Florence Greenberg (played by Beth Leavel), who found and promoted artists in the late 1950s and '60s, and ran Scepter Records. The complaint alleges that the new musical "makes use of the details within the individual history and styling of these nationally treasured, lifetime artists."
Warshavsky stated, "We believe that the producers of Baby It's You!, the Defendants, should not receive financial gain or other benefits from the use of these great artists' lives and success without having consent to do so. …It is disappointing that the producers of the play would simply piggy-back on the careers of these original artists without asking permission at all, let alone without sufficiently compensating the people without whom there would be no Broadway story, original music or iconic styling."
Beverly Lee, a surviving member of the girl-group The Shirelles, owns the trademark to the group's name, according to her lawyers, and continues to perform as The Shirelles (with other singers). The Shirelles were formed in 1958 in New Jersey. Their pop/rock 'n' roll/R&B hits include "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" in 1960, "Dedicated to the One I Love," "Mama Said" and "Big John" in 1961, "Soldier Boy" and "Baby It's You" in 1962. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Dionne Warwick, who had over 40 songs reach the Top 40 on Pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary charts, began her career in 1962. She continues to perform and record.
Chuck Jackson was a member of the Dell-Vikings in the 1950s and performed with Jackie Wilson's Revue before being signed to Scepter Records, where The Shirelles and Dionne Warwick were also recording. Jackson continues to perform and work with children.