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'Original' 'Phantom' Team Flex Their Legal Biceps

June 7-13th 1989 | Page 73
Written for Variety magazine by Richard Hummler




Producers of the Ken Hill version file suits in Georgia, Ohio, alleging local promoters are impeding tour's sales, bookings by urging show patrons to wait for 'the real thing'

New York Producers of the forthcoming national tour of the Ken Hill version of "Phantom Of The Opera" have taken the gloves off as they battle to overcome resistance to the non-Andrew Lloyd Webber show.

Allen Spivak and Larry Magid, the Philadelphia-based music promoters and legit producers who are sponsoring the tour, have filed federal lawsuits in Georgia and Ohio against local promoters who they allege are impeding their booking efforts.

The Georgia action accuses Christopher Manos, producer of Theater of the Stars in Atlanta, of slander, libel and contractual interference with the upcoming "Phantom" tour. The suit charges Manos with urging Atlanta theater patrons to skip the Ken Hill production and wait for the "real" (i.e. Lloyd Webber) production. The co-plaintiff in the lawsuit is Diamond Bullet Corp., the Miami-based promoter of the Atlanta run.

Conspiracy theory

The producers also have filed suit in Cincinnati Federal Court against Cincinnati Theatrical Assn. and Broadway Series Management Group, which books Broadway shows into the Taft Theater there. That action alleges a conspiracy to exclude the non-Lloyd Webber "Phantom" from the Cincinnati legit market. Bradley Broecker and Jim Howland are the execs of the Cincinnati outfit and also promote Broadway series in Louisville, Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis.

"My instructions from the principals is that if anyone tries improperly to inhibit the production of this show, we will strike back with litigation," said Yale Gutnick, the Pittsburgh attorney for Spivak and Magid.

The Ken Hill version of "Phantom" originated at Theater Royal, Stratford East, the theater in London's East End which Hill runs. It was seen there by Lloyd Webber before he wrote his version, which of course has become a phenomenal box office smash in the West End and on Broadway.

The Hill version has been playing since last September at San Francisco's Theater on the Square and has grossed about $3.4 million, according to Jonathan Reinis, who produced the Frisch version and licensed the touring rights to Spivak and Magid. The latter are the principals of Electric Factory Concerts, major Philadelphia rock promoter, and also operate the Tower Theater and Theater of the Living Arts there.

Cold shoulder

Although nobody's saying so on the record in view of the delicate legal circumstances, it's known that Lloyd Webber and producer Cameron Mackintosh are not pleased with the prospect of another "Phantom" crisscrossing the U.S. before their show hits the touring road. Whether any pressure is being applied to local promoters to give a cold shoulder to the earlier "Phantom" tour can only be a subject of speculation.

"You might say that we're riding on the coattails of the Lloyd Webber 'Phantom,' but you could also say it's justice for the author who created the phenomenon." said Reinis, the San Francisco producer. "Lloyd Webber went and saw this show before he wrote his version. There's no question that we have the right to use the term 'original version.'"

Resistance from local presenters or not, the Ken Hill version has booked some 30 weeks so far for the tour that begins Aug. 28 at the Warner Theater in Washington. It's currently scheduled to play Miami, Cleveland, Wilkes-Barre (Pa.), Indianapolis, Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, with other dates to come.

The Los Angeles edition of the Lloyd Webber musical opened last week at the Ahmanson for an open-end run, and a separate production will be dispatched on a prime-city national tour, but no firm dates have been set.