How to Steal a Musical
Preface, Part Two
Jun 1, 2022
The alarming machinations of white-collar criminals posing as fiduciaries.
As they say, a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane across the world.
So bear with me as I discuss something tiny that exploded into a $15 million dollar Broadway flop.
A couple of years ago, I decided to dig in to the paper trail in order to understand just how my Head Over Heels got stolen and destroyed. And I started at the very beginning: my first contracts with the producers.
When the contract negotiations began, I'd already chosen my creative team: young talented up-and-comers, none of whom were represented by my agent - a man accustomed to having a lock on the creative teams of hit musicals he represented.
My agent and lawyer were over the moon about my proposal, and sensed a hit in the making from a creator of Avenue Q. “This is the best thing I’ve read in a long time!” my agent wrote gleefully after he read my 55-page outline, which was in truth a half-completed script. I was jamming.
So negotiations began. In the December 2012 “Deal Memo” (the pre-contract contract), my agent and attorney wrote the following language regarding my approvals over my creative team:
APPROVALS. Sole approval of the book, and all standard author approvals-cast, creative team, designers, dispositions, understudies, replacements, etc. All approvals to be unanimous between bookwriter and composer/lyricists.
The originating artist’s approvals over their creative team are “standard” to be sure. And the key slots on Head Over Heels were Director and Music Supervisor and Arranger (who arranges the pre-existing songs to tell story).
I wager that no contract in Broadway history has denied such “standard approvals” to the artist who is, after all, working for years, taking jawdropping risks in the public eye. You don't want your work going into the hands of just anybody, because they could blow it.
Fast forward six months to May 23, 2013. This is a draft of the contract-in-progress, sent by my attorney. As he was, after all, my lawyer, I barely glanced through it. I was paying him to protect my interests. I counted him as a friend of many years.
APPROVALS: Book, cast (including understudies), designers; musical director; orchestrator; music arranger; rehearsal pianist; translators; and any replacements of the foregoing. Also, dispositions of merged musical; cast album label and waterial terms of cast album agreement.
There is someone missing here, folks.
My approval over the Director has been lifted by my own lawyer and agent. But I did not notice. My lawyer told me of other changes, but omitted this crucial aspect of the loss of my creative control over my own work.
It’s easier to notice what is added than that which is missing, after all. And again, I was paying my lawyer to look out for my interests.
Two weeks later, my attorney sent me a newer draft of the contract – and this I signed, unaware of the swindle underway:
APPROVALS: Book; cast (including understudies); designers: translators; and any replacements of the foregoing. Also, dispositions of merged musical; cast album label and material terms of cast album agreement.
Now missing are both key creative slots: Director and Music Supervisor.
This is not business as usual, not by a long shot.
This is theft of a most insidious sort. I respect a purse-snatcher more; at least they don’t engage the trust of their victims to grease the rails so they can steal.
In The Inferno, Dante’s ninth and deepest circle of Hell is devoted to such charlatans.
Years later, when I noticed this omission, my heart stopped. For I’d caught them. I fucking caught them. I found the Rosetta Stone of my exploitation, for it unlocks all of the bad behavior that followed - as my agent’s clients were installed in the very slots deleted from my contract: Director and Music Supervisor/Arranger. My gifted Music Supervisor had been fired, her arrangements pulled, all that we built over three years destroyed.
Any attempts by my malefactors to blame me for their Reverse Rumpelstiltskin act must first answer the question:
“Why did you steal the very rights that your client trusted you to protect – the client who hired you to defend him from the very abuses that you would later inflict?”
For they knew that I had no one to defend me when they dropped the masks. And they sure did, first the agent then the lawyer, who represented me and the Go-Go's (which I knew) as well as the producers (which I did not know). When a lawyer reps every side of a contract, they - not the client - hold control. They can pit clients against one another, as my lawyer did when he set them against me, telling his naive musical first-timers that such thefts "happen all the time in this business" despite the fact that he knew almost nothing about musicals.
My lawyer and agent knew that I’d be totally alone and reeling.
And as I was an artist with no support system, and they spent their workdays on the phone to the entire industry, I was easily destroyed, smeared, villainized, blamed.
This bad behavior later demanded a cover-up that led to years of intimidation and harassment at the hands of flying-monkey strangers hired by the confidence artists, abuses of such emotional (and twice, physical) violence that I attempted suicide on my 48th birthday from undiagnosed Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Do I sound like a drama queen? Really? If so, check yourself. Just a taste of that abuse, coming up. With video.