The inaugural Melbourne Musical Theatre Festival launched late last year, with a program of concerts and stagings of full-length musicals at the Athaeneum Theatre. It had lofty ambitions of evolving into “THE major Musical Theatre Festival in the world.”
The centrepiece of the festival was to be Some Enchanted Evening, a concert of Rodgers and Hammerstein music, starring leading opera stars Antoinette Halloran, Dimity Shepherd, Jason Wasley, Andrew Jones, and Jacqueline Dark. Dark had recently received a Helpmamn nomination for her performance as the Mother Abbess in the national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music.
But one day into the rehearsal period for Some Enchanted Evening, the full festival was cancelled, officially citing “unforeseen and currently unresolvable technical issues“.
Patrick Togher Artists’ Management, which represents Halloran, Wasley, Jones and Dark, is now claiming $80,000 in unpaid artist fees in the NSW District Court.
The singers, who had set aside several weeks to work on the show, due to play from January 6 to 28, have allegedly not received payment for their work in accordance with the agreement. Some had turned down other working opportunities and paid for accommodation for the duration of the contract.
The claim is against the Festival’s director Trevor Alexander, and producers Malcolm McClure and Zenaan Harkness, who were representing Grace Missions, the religious organisation producing the event.
On Friday, the court will hear a motion from Alexander to have his name removed from the proceedings. The case against McClure comes after he was found guilty in 2014 of engaging in legal practice without being qualified to do so. He had offered legal advice and drafted documents for his friend, businessman and tyre proprietor Bob Jane.
It’s the second major incident in recent years in Australia of classical artists seeking allegedly unpaid appearance fees. The collapse of two major music festivals, Sydney Sings and Brisbane Baroque, left artists seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid fees.
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