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Broadway Producers Ask Unions for Concessions

Management and labor negotiate as New York shows experience falloff. Some pay cuts approved.


NEW YORK — In a bid to keep five struggling Broadway shows running--following the announced closure of five others--members of the union representing stagehands agreed Wednesday to take an unprecedented 25% pay cut for the next four weeks.

"Broadway is the guiding light of New York City. Psychologically and philosophically that would be devastating if Broadway went dark ... in the midst of perhaps the worst disaster in the nation's history," said Tom Short, the president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which agreed with seven of its New York locals to accept the cost-saving cuts for work on "Rent," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables," "Chicago" and "The Full Monty."

On Wednesday, "Kiss Me, Kate" became the latest casualty of the drastic tourist falloff in New York City since the World Trade Center disaster. The 1999 Tony-winning revival will close Sunday along with five other shows--"Blast!," "Stones in His Pockets," "The Rocky Horror Show," "If You Ever Leave Me, I'm Going With You" and "A Thousand Clowns."

"Kate" had previously announced a closing date of Dec. 30. But producer Roger Berlind said the show is so dependent on tourist dollars that the writing was immediately on the wall: "There was no way we could have continued to run without huge losses."

The fate of another tourist-dependent show, the Tony Award-winning musical "The Music Man," remained in question.

Upcoming Broadway shows could also be in jeopardy. On Tuesday, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "By Jeeves," set to open next month, was postponed indefinitely after two major investors pulled out.

Members of Actors Equity, the union representing actors and stage managers, were meeting late Wednesday to consider pay concessions that producers said were needed to help remaining productions pull through Broadway's worst financial crisis in history.

The only shows that appear to be somewhat bulletproof are "The Producers" and "The Lion King."

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