Urinetown case settled

Playbill is reporting that the lawsuit against Akron, Ohio based Carousel Dinner Theatre, by the broadway team responsible for the original production of Urinetown  has been settled by the parties, with the Arkon producers paying the New York team an undisclosed sum, and acknowledging the unlicensed use of elements from the New York production.  

According to the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers,   the parties expressed regret over the circumstances leading to the suit, and agreed to terms of a license agreement for the material used without permission. 

The dispute arose in Late 2006 when the Akron company  (along with another at the Mercury Theatre in Chicago),  mounted productions of Urinetown which, in addition to the properly licensed uses of the book, score and lyrics of the show, also incorporated components of the Broadway direction, choreography and design.  Those elements were not licensed to the Illinois and Ohio productions. 

After a cease and desist letter  from the Broadway team's entertainment lawyer and request for an accounting from the Broadway team,   the Carousel Dinner Theatre engaged its own attorneys, and  sued in the Ohio Federal District Court  seeking a declaratory judgment that the Akron production was ‘not substantially similar' to the Broadway production.  

 The current settlement , according to a statement, acknowledges similarities in various elements  of the different productions, but also acknowledges some original contributions by the Akron cast.     

 The lesson for producers is clear.  Obtaining production rights from a publisher (such as Samuel French, Tams-Witmark, Rodgers & Hammerstein, etc.), does NOT include the right to copy all or part of the broadway, off-broadway or other original production.  It is incumbent on producers to either (a) obtain such rights separately, or (b) re-imagine the show and create a new, original production from the ground up. When in doubt… consult your attorney.

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