Broadway Producers Slammed for Using Taped Music

Juilliard, New York Philharmonic join coalition to speak out against "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," "West Side Story" for cutting live performances.


NEW YORK -- A coalition of Broadway composers and musicians and representatives from the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera and The Juilliard School said Monday they have teamed up with the non-profit Council for Living Music to launch a nationwide campaign called “Save Live Music On Broadway.”

The group opposes that some producers have reduced live orchestras on Broadway in favor of recordings "to squeeze out a few extra dollars in profits," even though ticket prices continue to rise.

The organizations cited such productions as the recently opened Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and a 2010 revival of Leonard Bernstein’s classic West Side Story, which ended up cutting out five musicians after 500 performances and replacing them with a synthesizer.

Endorsers of the Save Live Music on Broadway campaign include Marc Shaiman (composer, lyricist, arranger, (Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can), Scott Frankel and Michael Korie (composer and lyricist, Grey Gardens), as well as Joseph Polisi, president of The Juilliard School for Dance, Drama and Music, New York Philharmonic concert master Glenn Dicterow and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra assistant concert master Laura Hamilton.

The Web site also features a video of composer Stephen Sondheim saying, "Every audience is privileged to see a very specific performance that nobody will ever see again. It's the aliveness of the orchestra that makes the evening unique and allows for the interplay between the audience, the stage and the pit, which is necessary in every musical."

Broadway audiences want live music, the group argues, pointing to a study released Monday.

The 704-person national survey, called The Broadway Musical Theatergoer Study, was commissioned by the Council for Living Music.

Among the results, 91 percent of those surveyed said the best part about a Broadway musical is the live music, and 92 percent said they would be disappointed if they learned that a show contained little or no live music. Plus, three out of four respondents said they would not buy tickets to a show if they were aware it was using recorded music to replace musicians.

The "Save Live Music on Broadway" campaign is launching this week, with the group saying it hopes to send a message to Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the Broadway League, a trade association for producers and theater owners.


Twitter: @georgszalai