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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Funny how things work out

High School "Chicago" Production Will Go On As Planned
May 09, 2006

An attempt to shut down a Bronx high school's production of the Broadway hit "Chicago" has been thwarted, and the show will go on as planned.


Seventeen-year-old Jason Valentin is ready for his close up. He plays the lawyer Billy Flynn in Herbert Lehman High School's production of the musical “Chicago.”

The problem is, the show is currently on Broadway as well. And just as the Bronx students were getting ready for their debut, the producers of the Broadway version sent them a cease and desist order.

“When I first heard that we couldn’t do the performance my heart started racing and I started crying,” Valentin said Tuesday. “Everybody started crying, especially all of the seniors, because we’ve been looking forward to this since freshman year.”

Lawyers and agents for the musical's authors said the Bronx production violated copyright laws and licensing agreements because the high school's principal did not ask for permission to put on the show.

Even if the school had asked for permission, there is a geographic restriction. What that means is if the show is currently on Broadway, it cannot be produced elsewhere within a 75-mile radius of that show.

But city leaders stepped in and convinced the Broadway producers to let the students' show go on, despite its proximity to the Great White Way.

“The school, the principal, are very comfortable admitting that they should have taken different steps,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “Had they known there were steps that they should have taken to talk to the producers or the agents or whatever, they would have done that.”

Lehman's principal Robert Leder says the school puts on shows every year, and in his 27 years there, he has never thought of asking for permission.

OK, I was reading about this over breakfast, and thinking, I wouldn't want to be the publishers, Samuel French or the theater.

So, when I get home, guess what? There are a bunch of politicians outside the theater talking to the assembled cameras about these kids from the Bronx and their play. The Daily News story had these kids facing a $250K fine for the school and individual fines for the kids and their parents.

To the working class kids of the Bronx, those were unimaginable sums of money. And to her credit, Quinn realized that this was a hell of a story. So she shamed the rights holders into making an exception.

One of the weird things about New York is how a sense of fairness can mobilize the city. Whether it's falcons or lost tourists or schoolkids, you can get New Yorkers to demand people act fairly and create a cause.

Now why the producers of Chicago didn't realize a shitstorm would follow is beyond me; it was totally predictable. Working class kids from the Bronx being thwarted by people who charge $235 a seat? It's a perfect story.

I can say I was truly not surprised by this outcome.

posted by Steve @ 1:05:00 AM

1:05:00 AM

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