Industry figures angered by producer’s London reappearance amid claims of unpaid debts

An American theatre producer has come under fire from a group of leading West End industry figures, who claim he continues to stage work in London despite owing them money from a previous production he was behind.

Keith Turnipseed, who is currently one of the producers of The American Songbook in London at Pizza on the Park, is alleged to be thousands of pounds in debt to the production team of Chita Sings, a show starring Chita Rivera that he was planning to run at the Wyndham’s Theatre in September 2007. The show was cancelled just weeks before it was due to open.

Those working on the production – including Target Live, which was handling the marketing, Anna Arthur, who was looking after the PR and John Dalston, who had come on board as production manager – were told it was pulled because Turnipseed had not secured sufficient financing. As a result none of the trio was paid for their work.

However, they claim that Turnipseed’s latest work in London, which opened earlier this year, is proof that he does have money, and are now questioning why they have not been paid.

Dalston told The Stage: “He carried on doing stuff here so you kind of think he could have paid his bills. I understand what happened, but if people make a promise they should try and stick by it.”

Arthur revealed she had been left thousands of pounds out of pocket by Turnipseed, but admitted she was not likely to see any of the money owed to her.

She said the producer had given “all sorts of reasons” why the money could not be paid and added: “If anyone tells me now they are working for Keith, I tell them not to expect to get paid.”

All of the people working on Chita Sings are understood to have entered into verbal contracts with Turnipseed, but did not ever sign an official agreement.

David Bloom, from Target Live, said his company was chasing Turnipseed for money from both Chita Sings, and a previous run of An American Songbook in London, which opened at s Street Theatre in early 2008.

The company even agreed a payment plan with Turnipseed, involving a reduction in his debt, in an attempt to get back what it was owed.

“There have been no attempts to do it. It has been one crazy excuse followed by the next,” Bloom said.

Turnipseed said he was “extremely disappointed” to be unable to present Chita Sings in London during 2007.

He confirmed the project failed to materialise after “key financial backing withdrew”, but added: “The project came together informally and very quickly – over the course of a month – as we tried to take advantage of a dark spot in Wyndham’s summer schedule. All of us working on the project were doing so on a speculative, developmental basis and had no contractual commitments among ourselves.”

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster