Barbershop quartet, clipped from Broadway’s ‘Music Man’ revival, files suit

By: - March 8, 2022 4:26 pm

Iowa Stubborn, the production company behind the Broadway revival of “The Music Man,” is facing litigation from the singers originally cast as the River City, Iowa, school board and barbershop quartet. (Photo illustration by Iowa Capital Dispatch.)

A barbershop quartet originally cast in the current Broadway revival of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” is suing the show’s producers after being cut from the production.

Members of the quartet known as Category 4 are suing Iowa Stubborn LLC, the production company behind the show, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The quartet has ties to Atlanta.

Singers Clay Hine, David Calland, Kirk Young and Tim Reynolds allege that in 2019, when the producers of the show cast the role of the River City, Iowa, school board and barbershop quartet, they sought “an authentic barbershop quartet, not four singers who would simply be cast as a quartet.”

The four claim producers invited them to audition for the play, which stars Hugh Jackman in the role of Professor Harold Hill, after seeing their online videos. In November 2019, Iowa Stubborn signed each of the four singers to a contract, with rehearsals to begin Oct. 25, 2021. It was expected that 14 months of rehearsals and stage performances would then follow, with each of the four collecting $2,323 in weekly pay.

The members of the quartet then quit their jobs or planned for leaves of absence, with some of them selling their homes or terminating leases as they looked for housing in New York.

But last June, the four allege, the production company’s general manager informed them that “artistic changes in the show are moving forward in a different direction, and we will not be needing your services.”

The producers allegedly offered each member of the quartet $10,000 to sign termination agreements, which they declined.

In a legal petition that bears the heading “Trouble in River City,” the quartet is now suing Iowa Stubborn, claiming they are owed $586,240 in lost wages for rehearsals and performances. Co-defendants include Alchemy Production Group and Alchemy’s principals, Marshall Purdy, Carl Pasbjerg and Kate Horton.

Iowa Stubborn — the corporation takes its name from one of Willson’s songs — has filed a motion with the court, arguing that the case should be dismissed since the quartet’s contract is governed by the Actors’ Equity Association Production Agreement with the Broadway League, which stipulates that such disputes are to be resolved through arbitration.

The court has yet to rule on the motion.

Robert Meredith Willson was born in Mason City, Iowa, in 1902. He won Tony and Grammy awards for “The Music Man” in 1958.

This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch, a sister site of the Nebraska Examiner in the States Newsroom Network.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Clark is deputy editor of the Iowa Capital Dispatch. Kauffman has extensive experience using the Freedom of Information Act, reading Form 990 financial reports for nonprofit organizations, and organizing multi-part series. He can be a source for health care coverage as well as stories on police and prosecutorial misconduct, and publicly funded nonprofits. During the past 30 years, Clark worked as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.