Mayor Arranges Talks To Settle Broadway Strike

Mayor Michael Bloomberg personally intervened to get musicians and producers back to the bargaining table on Monday for the first time since an economically damaging strike shut down Broadway musicals four days ago. Both sides will negotiate at Gracie Mansion around the clock starting Monday night, according to Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler.

Eighteen shows, including such big hits as Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, The Lion King, and La Boheme, went dark, and producers canceled all performances through Sunday. Dramatic plays without music and Off Broadway productions operated as normal.

The dispute between the League of American Theatres and Producers and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 centers on New York's largest theaters, where the minimum for orchestras ranges between 24 and 28 musicians. The producers hope to reduce that number to between 12 and 18, but the union does not want to have fewer than 20. In negotiations last week, the producers proposed the number of musicians required for the large Broadway theaters be reduced to seven, a figure they later raised to 14.

Shutting down the 18 shows has cost about $1.3 million per performance in terms of lost box-office revenue, according to Pattie Haubner, a spokeswoman for the League of American Theatres and Producers. The city's tourism office estimated weekend losses for ancillary businesses, such as restaurants, hotels and taxis, at more than $7 million.

Fifteen of Broadway's 18 musicals, including Hairspray, Les Miserables and 42nd Street, intended to use either so-called virtual orchestras, computer-generated equipment, or tape as musical accompaniment in place of musicians.

Local 802 last called a Broadway strike in September 1975, shuttering nine musicals for 25 days. The union represents 10,000 musicians including 350 who perform on Broadway. The League of American Theatres and Producers represents most producers on The Great White Way.

Ticketholders for Broadway musicals canceled because of the strike can receive a refund or exchange their tickets, according to the League of American Theatres and Producers. The refunds and exchanges are available where the tickets were purchased - at the theater's box office or from the two ticket organizations that handle telephone orders for most of the Broadway shows: Telecharge and Ticketmaster.

Additional Resources:

For Telecharge call 212-239-6200, toll free 800-432-7250; Ticketmaster 212-307-4100 or toll free 800-755-4000.

New York Times reporter Robin Pogrebin discusses the strike and its implications with John Schaefer on Soundcheck.

Sara Fishko reports on the Broadway labor disputes in a recent edition of the Fishko Files.