By Jennyfer J. Walker
The Dirty Dancing tour has come under fire for cutting musicians from the show and using recorded music on a backing track.
According to The Stage, the Musicians’ Union – whose members plan to protest when the show opens today (August 11) – claim the show has only five musicians currently employed, as opposed to eight on the previous tour, and that they’re using “unauthorised” backing music.
The dispute apparently began when co-producers Paul Elliott and Karl Sydow approached the union about removing the live band from the show completely, to which the MU objected, and instead five actor-musicians were added to the production.
“There seems to be not a great deal of clarity about how much [the actor-musicians] do on stage compared with the recording,” said Horace Trubridge, assistant general secretary at the MU. “We suspect the majority of what the audience hears is the recording made in Italy.”
He went on to say: “We think there is an issue here for the ticket-buying public, as we gather that prices are not reflecting the fact it is effectively a reduced production. The MU believes that live theatre should be just that – live.”
Paul Elliott refuted the MU’s claims, saying the show has always featured at least 40%, and has never publicly referred to itself as a musical, saying “none of the leading characters sing”.
“By employing five actor-musicians we have been able to keep the performing company the same size as before, so audiences will be given the same artistic value,” he said.
Elliott has also accused the Musicians’ Union of trying to blackmail producers by demanding backing tracks to be recorded in the UK, adding that he did not see any problem using a “fully licensed backing track from Italy in the UK”. As a result of the dispute he has resigned from UK Theatre, a trade body which negotiates employment terms on behalf of producers, saying: “I decided that after 50-plus years of membership of UK Theatre, I would not submit to this blackmail and took the decision to resign.”