Battle brews between ‘Here Lies Love’ and musicians union over use of recorded tracks instead of live orchestra

Jose Llana, Arielle Jacobs, and Conrad Ricamora (credit Harold Julian) (1)
Jose Llana, Arielle Jacobs, and Conrad Ricamora of Here Lies Love (credit Harold Julian)

The new Broadway production of the David Byrne-Fat Slim musical “Here Lies Love” (which plans to use pre-recorded instrumental tracks rather than live musicians) has led to tensions with Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, the union representing Broadway musicians. Union contracts on Broadway stipulate the minimum number of musicians that must be hired for each theater depending on size (an issue that led to a short musicians’ strike in 2003). However, according to the Times, the producers of “Here Lies Love” are currently seeking an exemption from the minimum requirement on the basis that the show represents a “special situation.”

It has long been the position of the show’s creators that a recorded soundtrack suits the show’s electronic pop, dance club style. On Instagram, the show published a post titled “What’s the Musical Concept Behind ‘Here Lies Love’?” which explains its “musical genesis.” According to the show, “in conceiving ‘Here Lies Love,’ David Byrne intentionally employed two musical performance styles that are aligned conceptually, built into the show’s artistic DNA: Disco Track Acts and Karaoke. Both share the method of vocalists singing along to pre-recorded, synthetic tracks.”

In a petition posted on actionnetwork.org, Local 802 wrote that “Here Lies Love” is a “direct attack on Broadway audiences, a direct attack on the professional musicians of NYC, and a direct attack on the long tradition of live music on Broadway” and accused Byrne and the show’s producers of “using technology to try to replace professional musicians.”

The current situation brings back memories of “Contact,” Susan Stroman’s 2000 dance drama, which was deemed a musical for purposes of the Tony Awards (and went on to win the award for Best Musical) even though it had no live musicians or live singing. However, the major difference between “Here Lies Love” and “Contact” is that “Here Lies Love” will have live singing, which no doubt qualifies it as a musical.

Arielle Jacobs will lead Here Lies Love (credit Harold Julian)

Drama Desk Award winners announced

The winners of the 2023 Drama Desk Awards were announced on Wednesday morning, which include Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt” as Outstanding Play and “Some Like It Hot” as Outstanding Musical. This year, the Drama Desk used issued gender neutral nominations for the acting categories, with Jessica Chastain (“A Doll’s House”) and Sean Hayes (“Good Night, Oscar”) winning Outstanding Lead Performance in a Play and Annaleigh Ashford (“Sweeney Todd”) and J. Harrison Ghee (“Some Like It Hot”) winning Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical. The awards will be presented on June 6 at Sardi’s Restaurant.

Ham4Ham comes back to celebrate Tony Awards season

25 years ago, Tony-nominated shows would perform on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” Today, it’s outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre for Ham4Ham (which is subsequently uploaded onto YouTube).

In early May, the Broadway production of “Hamilton” revived the long-dormant Ham4Ham concert series (in which short, free, no frills concerts were performed outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre in conjunction with the daily lottery for discounted “Hamilton” tickets) with the casts of “Hamilton” and “Sweeney Todd” performing a mash-up of the opening numbers of those respective shows. Since then, additional Ham4Ham concerts have taken place to celebrate the Tony-nominated shows of the current season, including “Parade,” “Shucked,” “Some Like It Hot,” “Kimberly Akimbo,” and “Camelot.” Upcoming concerts will be held on June 2 and 9.

Leslie Kritzer becomes Carol Burnett on ‘Mrs. Maisel’

Broadway actress and comic Leslie Kritzer (“Beetlejuice,” “Something Rotten!”) made a splashy cameo on the series finale of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” as a young Carol Burnett, who was depicted singing “Shy” from the fairy tale musical comedy “Once Upon a Mattress” during a live television performance in 1961. Historically, Burnett gained fame on Broadway in “Once Upon a Mattress” in 1959 and subsequently appeared on TV adaptations of the musical. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which took place in New York in the 1950s and early 1960s, featured many references to Broadway shows of the period. The title character even hired dancers from the original Broadway production of “The Pajama Game” as “ringers” for her wedding.