Saturday, November 10, 2007

Show Biz Taking Heavy Hits, left and right

As Stagehands Strike, Shows Don’t Go On


Most of Broadway was dark yesterday as stagehands went on strike over new work rules that producers have imposed or have been pushing for in months of contentious negotiations.

The stagehands took their picket signs to the wet sidewalks about 10 a.m. after a meeting of Local One, their union, at the Westin New York on West 43rd Street.

Twenty-seven Broadway shows, including “Wicked,” “Jersey Boys” and “The Lion King,” were shuttered, starting with “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” which was to raise its curtain at 11 a.m. Eight shows playing in theaters that have separate contracts with the union remained open.

The work stoppage not only crippled a $939 million industry, but also slowed the whole universe of Midtown: the bars, the restaurants, the hotels, the souvenir stores and the pedicabs that serve the people who buy Broadway tickets — more than 12 million of which were sold last year.

Yesterday’s matinee traffic of tourists and theatergoers was thrown off balance, with busloads of students sitting unhappily outside “The Color Purple,” and nervous restaurant workers contemplating a night with no dinner rush.

“Customers may show up, but they will be grumpy and won’t tip well,” said Laura Cosentino, as she stood on West 46th Street handing out menus for Rachel’s, a theater district restaurant.

The eight Broadway productions still running are: “Cymbeline,” “Mary Poppins,” “Mauritius,” “Pygmalion,” “The Ritz,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Xanadu” and “Young Frankenstein.”

This is the second strike on Broadway in less than five years. The four-day musicians’ walkout in 2003 was the first in almost three decades. But this is the first time Local One, a 121-year-old union, has called a strike on Broadway.

The producers and the union last met on Thursday, the second of three negotiating sessions requested by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the parent union of Local One.

In a statement, Thomas C. Short, the president of the parent union, said the talks had been making progress when he left on Thursday afternoon.

“I am dismayed that just hours after my departure the employers made a 180 degree turn and began bargaining in a regressive manner,” Mr. Short said in the statement. “This action demonstrates a clear lack of will on the employers’ part to reach an agreement.”

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