‘Paradise Square’ Director, Choreographers Take Legal Action on Owed Payments

Broadway musical Paradise Square is facing another legal complaint, this time from the union representing the directors and choreographers who worked on the show. 

The Stage Directors and Choreographers Society is seeking to enforce payment of owed royalties, fees and pension and health contributions to the musical’s director, Moisés Kaufman, choreographer Bill T. Jones, and three specialty choreographers who worked on the production. As of May 15, these payments totaled more than $140,000. 

According to the complaint, filed in the United States District Court Southern District of New York on July 22, the union and producer Bernard Abrams, head of the production’s limited liability company, both signed a joint stipulation in May, agreeing on the amount owed. However, payment is still outstanding, according to SDC, which is bringing Paradise Square to court to enforce the award.

This follows similar actions taken by Actors’ Equity and United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, which represents the designers on the show. Both unions filed legal complaints in early July to enforce arbitration remedies awarded in late May and early June, respectively. Actors’ Equity was seeking more than $189,000 in unpaid union dues and benefit fund contributions, while Local USA 829 was seeking more than $150,000 in unpaid wages and benefits. Both actions are still awaiting next steps.

Richard Roth, a partner at the Roth Law Firm, who is representing Paradise Square, said the production plans to pay all of its creditors in these matters. One method of payment is to use the bonds producers paid at the beginning of the production to pay off some of the amount owed, he said. He cited the tough economics for Broadway shows this season as part of the reason for the nonpayment thus far. 

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“The goal right now is to pay everyone off,” Roth said. “It has been very difficult for all shows, except for the traditional winners.” 

According to the court filing from SDC, the union already used about $35,000 of the security bond from the production to pay Kaufman owed fees and advances ahead of rehearsals in the winter. That left about $81,000 of the bond, some of which was later used to pay out some of the other owed fees and advances, which had grown to $200,000 by the end of the run, said Laura Penn, executive director of SDC. There is still about $116,000 left to pay, she said.

“The union is using all legal means necessary to ensure our members get paid, and this is the next step in that process,” Penn said. 

Paradise Square closed on Broadway on July 17. The musical, which featured an elaborate set and a cast of 40, was nominated for 10 Tony Awards (and won one for lead actress Joaquina Kalukango) but was plagued by weeks of poor box office sales. 

It was also associated with its producer, Garth Drabinsky, who was convicted of fraud in Canada for misstating finances during his time as executive of a publicly traded theater production company. Drabinsky had the lead producing credit on the show, but was not the lead on the production’s finances.

Drabinsky was later placed on the “Do Not Work” list at Actors’ Equity, effectively barring him from returning to Broadway, after the company sent a letter to the union speaking out against him. Local 802 has also placed Drabinsky on its boycott list. Asked for comment, Drabinsky referred THR to Roth. 

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Directors and choreographers are paid upfront fees for the creation of the piece in preproduction and then weekly royalty payments during the production. As of May 15, the owed payments included a more than $44,000 fee to Jones, royalties of more than $68,000 to Kaufman, Jones and the three specialty choreographers, pension contributions of more than $11,000, health contributions of more than $12,000 and union dues of about $3,000.