Actors’ Equity filed a complaint Wednesday against the producer of “Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show” seeking wages owed to headliner Clay Aiken.
In the complaint, Equity says that Aiken is still owed $60,000 for two weeks of performances of the Broadway show, which ran at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre in December 2018. Equity took producer Jeffrey Chrzczon to arbitration in 2019 over the matter and the arbitrator later ruled that the lost wages were owed to Aiken, as well as other payments on behalf of several performers involved in the show, according to court documents.
The complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan, seeks to enforce payment of the owed wages, as well as 401(k) contributions and Equity working dues, which total more than $75,000. The arbitration decision was reached in February 2020.
Asked for comment on the complaint, Chrzczon told Broadway News that he has been working with Equity to create a payment plan. Earlier plans had been upended by the closure of theaters in March 2020, he said.
“We are right now working out a payment agreement,” Chrzczon said.
Brandon Lorenz, a spokesperson for Equity, said “the complaint speaks for itself” and that the union had no further comment. Attorneys for Equity did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show” ran on Broadway from Dec. 7, 2018 to Dec. 30, 2018. Chrzczon, who also produced the Broadway limited-run “Home for the Holidays,” signed on as producer after being approached by American Idol stars Aiken and Studdard, according to court documents. Five other actors joined as ensemble members.
During its three-and-a-half week run, the show struggled at the box office, bringing in 11% to 12% of its gross potential and playing to about a third of the theater’s capacity. In its best-selling week, the production grossed $162,962 and played to a capacity of 39%.
Per the negotiated agreement, Aiken was due to receive Equity minimum during rehearsals and then $25,000 per performance week in addition to a 20% payment per week to his agent and manager, for a total of $30,000.
However, Aiken was not paid for the two performance weeks ending Dec. 16 and Dec. 23, according to court documents. Aiken’s salary for the final week of the play was paid from a union bond, the documents state. Studdard was paid according to his contract.
In the 2019 arbitration meeting, Chrzczon argued that he was not liable to pay Aiken for the weeks ended Dec. 16 and Dec. 23 due to a breach of contract. He argued that after the Broadway performance, Aiken refused to tour the show for at least two subsequent seasons, which Chrzczon said was a condition of their contract. However, Aiken countered that no written agreement was made to that effect and that touring would not be possible given the debts owed.
The arbitrator sided with Aiken and Equity and ordered Chrzczon to pay what was owed, per a decision dated Feb. 3, 2020.
Additional owed payments include $2,136 in wages to cast member Julian Diaz-Granados, more than $7,300 in Equity working dues, three performers’ 401(k) deferral contributions and agent commission deductions for four performers.