Larry Hart, star, director and author of the Michael Jackson-produced musical Sisterella is fighting back against a lawsuit which claims he didn't author the show and a producer which has closed down the production and demanded a new director.
Co-producer Kevin Jacobsen confirmed that the show, which opened in Melbourne, Australia, in March, 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 Hart. Hart's business manager Susan Joseph told Playbill On-Line that such an action would be in breach of the performer's contract.
"We love Kevin and we're sorry he's having trouble marketing Sisterella," said Joseph, "but we think he's using Larry as a scapegoat. We've told him that the marketing for Sisterella is all wrong. This is not Beauty and the Beast. Its a modern rock musical. It needs to be targeted for a young audience."
Hart and Joseph are equally incensed by a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles saying that one Vaughn Kinsey, and not Hart, originated the idea for Sisterella and wrote its book. Frank Sandelman, Kinsey's attorney, would not comment on the case or his client's background. Joseph said, however, that Kinsey was not a writer or any sort of artist, but was once a friend of Hart's.
"Unfortunately, this happens a lot in show business," said Joseph. "Vaughn Kinsey thinks that because he was Hart's friend, he somehow wrote Sisterella through osmosis. It's total nonsense. The case has no merit." 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. Joseph said Hart has since returned to the production. Joseph denied any court date was forthcoming, but a clerk at Los Angeles Supreme Count confirmed that a jury trial on Kinsey v. Hart would begin 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.