Bloomberg News

‘Rock of Ages’ Suit Against ‘Chicago’ Producer Claims Betrayal

October 05, 2011

Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Producers of the raucous Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” have gotten into a courtroom brawl with one of the industry’s most respected managers, disputing advice she gave them as a consultant on productions worldwide.

The consultant, Alecia Parker, “continuously compromised” the show’s interests in favor of bigger Broadway players, according to the countersuit, which was filed after her company sued “Rock” for nonpayment of fees. Parker gave tainted recommendations that almost created a “catastrophic financial loss,” the producers said in a court filing.

“Every betrayal begins with trust,” the “Rock of Ages” producers said in papers filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, quoting the 2000 song “Farmhouse” by the band Phish.

Such lawsuits are rare on Broadway, where contract disputes are usually resolved in arbitration.

Parker, associate producer of “Chicago,” Broadway’s fourth-longest-running show, didn’t return calls seeking comment on the countersuit.

Judd Burstein, a lawyer who represents Parker’s employer, National Artists Management Co., declined to comment. The lead producer of “Rock of Ages,” Matthew Weaver, is a theater newbie with film credits, including a 2007 remake of “The Heartbreak Kid.” He also declined to comment.

Respectful Reviews

A high-decibel boy-meets-girl boy-loses-girl musical scored and inspired by 1980s arena anthems, “Rock of Ages” premiered at the Vanguard Hollywood nightclub in January 2006. The $7 million show opened in April 2009 at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre, to grudgingly respectful reviews.

According to an agreement filed in court, in August 2009 “Rock” hired Namco, the company run by “Chicago” producers Fran and Barry Weissler, for guidance in planning future productions of the show. Namco designated Parker, a Weissler lieutenant for more than three decades, as the “key person.”

The consulting agreement is non-exclusive and she “makes no representation or warranty with respect to any advice,” it said.

Two years later, Namco sued “Rock of Ages” for nonpayment of its weekly $3,000 consulting fees from Jan. 16 to March 8. The suit sought damages and other relief to be determined by the court. Rock of Ages Broadway LLC countersued on Sept. 7, seeking dismissal of the case plus damages.

“Ms. Parker represented that her connections with Broadway’s power brokers would benefit ‘Rock of Ages’” -- and that her experience would “make her valuable when determining how to tour the musical around the world,” according to the countersuit.

Separate Agenda

Parker, according to the countersuit, gave advice based on her own desire to cultivate relationships with theater landlords on Broadway and in Toronto.

According to the countersuit, Parker recommended 18 weeks at the 1,500-seat Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, starting in April 2010. It was “ill-advised,” and an additional Toronto production was created “to avoid a catastrophic financial loss.”

She also recommended moving the Broadway production from the Atkinson to a theater half its size, the Helen Hayes, according to the countersuit, in order to find a home for “Rain.”

The Beatles tribute show was wrapping up a 12-week engagement at the Neil Simon Theatre, which is owned by the Nederlander Organization. Instead of closing, “Rain,” which was co-produced by Nederlander, moved to the Atkinson and “Rock” moved to the Hayes.

Double the Cost

“The move to the Helen Hayes Theatre cost more than double, and the weekly running costs are more than 15 percent higher, than the forecast presented and/or validated by Namco and Ms. Parker,” according to the countersuit.

Separately, Carl Levin, a “Rock” producer, has sued Weaver and three other producers for $417,000 that he said he’s owed as a producer’s fee for a movie adaptation scheduled for release in 2012 starring Tom Cruise.

Levin, who describes himself on the show’s Website as a “recovering Morgan Stanley investment banker,” said in court papers filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles that he was entitled to a third of any proceeds from a movie deal, according to a verbal agreement. Weaver and other producers said there was no such agreement.

The first case is National Artists Management Company Inc. v. Rock of Ages Broadway Limited Liability Co., 651880/2011, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

The second case is Levin and Eleven Entertainment LLC v. Corner Store Entertainment, BC464815, California Superior Court (Los Angeles).

--Editors: Jeremy Gerard, Jeffrey Burke.

To contact the writer of this story: Philip Boroff in New York at pboroff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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