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Spelling Bee musicians poised for legal action in payment row

Musicians hired for last year’s failed tour of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are preparing to launch legal action against the show’s producers, in a bid to recover money owed to them for their work on the production.

The news comes as it has been revealed that Equity is assisting members involved in an ongoing tour of Copacabana, which is co-produced by the Spelling Bee producers. It is understood that one of the issues is late payments to performers.

Spelling Bee, starring Darren Day, was produced by Antony Stuart-Hicks and Paul Leno through Ash Productions Live and opened last year at the Harlow Playhouse, which was a co-producer.

It had been due to tour until November, but was pulled after its dates at the tour’s second venue, with performers and musicians claiming they had been left out of pocket by the show’s sudden closure.

Day’s management is already taking legal action, and now the Musicians’ Union is also threatening to do so on behalf of four MU members.

A letter seen by The Stage and sent to Stuart-Hicks at Ash Productions Live, states that its members had been “unable to find alternative bookings for affected dates” and adds that they look to Stuart-Hicks for “payment in full for the cancellation”.

The MU says that if payment is not received within 14 days of the date of the letter, it will be advising members over issuing legal proceedings to recover money owed, as well as “appropriate interest, costs and court fees”. Stuart-Hicks has until October 30 to pay, but had not been in contact as The Stage went to press.

A spokesman for the MU confirmed that letters had been sent out, but said the process of recovering money was in its “early stages”. He added that the MU had been approached by other members with complaints against Ash Productions Live.

Meanwhile, Equity has confirmed that it has had contact with “the cast, company and agents involved in Copacabana”.

According to the show’s website, it is co-produced by Ash Productions Live, with Dancing Fool Theatrical and the Harlow Playhouse.

Equity organiser Paul Fleming said: “There have been issues through the tour which we have been aware of and have been supporting all artists in ensuring their terms are met.”

He said several issues appeared to have been resolved already, and that Equity was “constructively working through the others”.

Nobody from Ash Productions Live was available for comment as The Stage went to press.