Performers from a touring musical have been left tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket after the production ran into financial problems and was cancelled.
Members of the 18-strong cast, creative team and crew of The Ultimate Show are claiming they are collectively owed about £80,000 in unpaid wages and expenses.
It is understood that performers in the show, directed by Richard Openshaw – who also produced the musical through his company Iconic Live – expected it to tour for up to two years.
However, following its three opening performances in February, which between them resulted in just 16 tickets being sold, Openshaw contacted performers and other team members working on the show to explain the company had run out of money.
The Ultimate Show’s lead vocalist Emily Peacock and musical director Danny Werner claimed they and others from the production were due, on average, £4,500 each for up to two months of rehearsals in January and February and the performances that took place, as well as money for expenses including travel and costumes.
They said they were also each owed a month’s salary due to not being given the agreed notice period of four weeks.
“We were suddenly unemployed after we’d been funding ourselves for January and February, giving in expenses sheets for him [Openshaw] to refund our travel,” said Peacock.
“We were expecting quite a bit of money at the end of February. Then suddenly to be told we were jobless and were not going to be paid a single penny is really disappointing, and disheartening as well. It doesn’t put much faith in you about the entertainment industry,” she added.
Peacock said she was shown almost 80 bookings across the UK by Openshaw, but following the first three “disastrous” performances at Ormskirk Civic Hall in Lancashire and Waterside Arts Centre in Greater Manchester, she believed the producer had failed to promote the show sufficiently.
She said some members of the group were trying to secure a winding-up order to force Iconic Live to close down. If successful, this would allow the assets to be dissolved and any remaining money to be distributed to those owed wages.
However, Openshaw has claimed there are no assets left in the company. He told The Stage he had personally lost more than £60,000 and did not even receive the £126 the show made from its three February performances, as this went to the ticket retailer.
He said the company ran out of money due to poor ticket sales and because eight performances booked for February were cancelled after costumes were not delivered and the cast was not ready.
“Some of the issues we had related to marketing and design, things happening too quickly and the serious shock at the serious lack of ticket sales. We did everything we could to get people in the theatres to see what I can only say was a fabulous show,” said Openshaw.
He said there was a “possibility” that those involved would receive “some form of payment, in full or part” in the future.
But he added: “It cannot happen from any assets, liquid or otherwise, as they don’t exist. It would be out of anything I do personally from here and in the future.”
He claimed it was not his decision to stop the run but that of “key” cast members, which meant it had to be cancelled, and that the production could have recouped its losses if it had been able to continue.
Performers from The Ultimate Show have now devised a new musical production away from Iconic Live. The Puppeteer is in rehearsals ahead of a showcase at Crewe’s Lyceum Theatre on June 18.
Productions owing cast money in past 18 months:
January 2013 – A Viennese Strauss Gala, produced by Theatre Productions
July 2013 – A musical about Glenn Miller, produced by Bugle Boy Productions
July 2013 – Momentous Musicals, produced by Speckulation Entertainment
December 2013 – An Evening of Movies and Musicals at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, produced by Matthew Hampson