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‘Here Lies Love’ producers release a statement about ongoing negotiations with musicians union

A dispute over the musical’s intention not to use live musicians surfaced on May 31.

The cast of “Here Lies Love” in the 2017 Seattle Rep production (Credit: Navid Baraty)

The musical “Here Lies Love” is scheduled to begin previews at the Broadway Theatre on June 17 ahead of an official July 20 opening. But, as previously reported, a controversy arose on May 31 between the production and the local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians when the musicians union learned that “Here Lies Love” would not employ live musicians.

Local 802, the branch of the union whose members include Broadway musicians, objected in a statement and a newsletter to its members. Producers responded, both in a statement (which explained the production was in negotiations with Local 802 via the Broadway League) and by publishing the history of the music within “Here Lies Love” to the show’s official Instagram account.

The musicians union was not satisfied and Local 802 executive director and president Tino Gagliardi reiterated their collective disapproval in another statement.

Now, the producers of “Here Lies Love” have released a new statement regarding the ongoing contract negotiations with Local 802.

Below is the statement in full:

"We, the lead producers of ‘Here Lies Love,’ have, since February 2023, been actively engaged in and totally compliant with the established Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) procedures for requesting a Special Situations designation from Local 802, which we and the musical’s creators firmly believe the show warrants. The negotiated long-established criteria for granting a Special Situations designation states that the issue shall be decided “based primarily on artistic considerations.” Further, the CBA provides that:

If a production meets the criteria set forth in any of the following categories, it shall qualify as a Special Situation and shall be permitted to perform with the requested smaller orchestra. The criteria for determining whether a production calls for a smaller orchestra are: (i) the concept expressed by the composer and/or orchestrator; (ii) whether the production is of a definable musical genre different from a traditional Broadway musical; (iii) the production concept expressed by the director and/or choreographer; and/or (iv) whether the production re-creates a pre-existing size band or band's sound (on or offstage).

Other considerations which shall be taken into account but which would not necessarily be determinative include but are not limited to: whether the show was previously presented with a smaller orchestra in a production of a professional caliber comparable to Broadway (e.g. London’s West End), or whether the production was required to book a theatre with a minimum higher than the intended number of musicians due to change of theatre. A production which meets the criteria set forth in this paragraph may be denied Special Situation status only for demonstrable reasons.

The Special Situations designation as an exception from the otherwise applicable house minimum musician staffing requirements and the process through which it is to be determined has been reaffirmed in every contract since it was first approved in 2003 by AFM, Local 802 and the Broadway League in their Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In addition to always maintaining that the show would have at least three actor-musicians (never zero), we have also been engaged in good faith discussions with the union over how best to resolve this issue. The next step in the Special Situations determination process will be the empaneling of a review committee composed of representatives for the producers, Local 802 and one or more neutral parties who will make a recommendation regarding the application of the contractual provisions above.  No decision has therefore been made by the neutral panel to date.

It is because we believe in and respect the CBA that we have followed its guidelines so closely. We trust the CBA to work as intended and look forward to reaching a resolution. To be clear: It is still our goal to resolve this matter quickly and reasonably for all involved, while maintaining our responsibility to facilitate the original vision of our creative team.

We stand by our creative team’s artistic choices and are proud of the historic moment we are bringing to Broadway with the first-ever all-Filipino cast. In this truly binational production, we have rooted our decisions in authenticity and excellence. The rich cultural history of karaoke is a valued component of Filipino and other AAPI traditions and communities. Alongside our premium production values and revolutionary immersive form, we affirm it as an essential conceptual construct for the many nontraditional genres our musical contains.

We recognize and celebrate the vast array of plays and musicals, styles and genres, which make up the Broadway landscape and are grateful that each show exists on its own merit as a piece of commercial art. As we have for all of our show’s critically acclaimed runs in New York, London and Seattle, we trust our audiences’ and critics’ enthusiastic responses, and look forward to welcoming everyone to experience ‘Here Lies Love’ for themselves. ‘Here Lies Love’ is an experiential redefinition of what Broadway can be; one that expands the creative offerings available to audiences and creates an invitation for new audiences to join us in experiencing live theater.

We and our colleagues have and continue to conduct ourselves with integrity. We believe our petition for Special Situations is completely justified and warranted. We have always intended to abide by the results of the established procedure in which we are engaged.

- Patrick Catullo, Hal Luftig/Kevin Connor, Jose Antonio Vargas, Diana DiMenna & Clint Ramos”