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November 21, 2003


Responding quickly to a financial emergency, Actors' Equity is assisting 29 cast members in the pre-Broadway musical HARMONY, by paying the actors' and stage managers' salaries out of the producer's Equity bond.

"We are paying all monies due to the Actors under the terms of the Production Contract," declared Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg, commenting on HARMONY's apparent collapse. "Needless to say, our hearts go out to the Actors at this sad juncture."

Equity first learned about the show's financial troubles late Wednesday, when General Manager Brent Peek advised that HARMONY could not meet its payroll on Thursday. "At that point, Equity stepped in and immediately paid the current week's rehearsal payroll," said Equity Business Representative Walt Kiskaddon.

Inspired by the Comedian Harmonists, a popular vocal ensemble that rose to fame in Germany in the 1920s, HARMONY was written by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, and was slated to open at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia on December 2nd, with a possible Broadway production in 2004.

According to Kiskaddon, HARMONY posted a $150,000+ bond, which is now being tapped to meet various contractual requirements. "Pursuant to Production Contract Rule 58(H), Rehearsals Discontinued or Play Abandoned, the cast is due two weeks' contractual salary plus all rehearsal salary due. Other financial obligations may also need to come out of what remains of the bond," he explained. Minimum salaries for actors in a musical are currently $1,354.

Equity requires that ALL producers post a bond, equal to at least two weeks' contractual salary plus benefits, to guarantee that the cast members get paid all monies due under their contracts. This bond also covers the producer's other contractual requirements, such as per diem, 401K, health and pension contributions. Bonding has been an important part of Equity's regulations since the earliest days of the Association, when all too frequently, actors were stranded out of town or swindled by unreliable producers.

HARMONY was shut down during rehearsals when the lead producer, Mark Schwartz, failed to deliver financial backing for the show. The production began to unravel when the Shubert Organization, which owns the Forrest, stopped the load-in because of unpaid bills. Various vendors, including the advertising agency, and the set builders, stopped working and are still owed monies.

Equity has been forced by defaulting producers to invade the bond on many occasions. In May 2003, for example, Equity paid 17 cast members out of the bond from the tour of SPIDERMAN LIVE.

In a widely circulated statement to the press, composer Barry Manilow said "My heart breaks for the hundreds of talented men and women who will be hurt by this colossal blunder. We all deeply hope that this situation can be corrected and that this powerful piece will finally be seen."

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