The Dirty Dancing tour has been blasted by the Musicians’ Union for scaling back its real musicians in the show.
The MU says that just five musicians remain out of the eight employed on a previous tour and that the show is using an unauthorised recording of the backing track made in Italy.
The MU stating that audiences are being cheated so its members are planning to protest the show, which opens in Blackpool this week.
“There seems to be not a great deal of clarity about how much [the actor-musicians] do on stage compared with the recording. We suspect the majority of what the audience hears is the recording made in Italy,” said Horace Trubridge, assistant general secretary at the MU.
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“We think there is an issue here for the ticket-buying public, as we gather that prices are not reflecting the fact it is effectively a reduced production. The MU believes that live theatre should be just that – live.”
It is believed that the dispute began when co-producers Paul Elliott and Karl Sydow approached the MU about removing the live band from the show completely, which the union objected.
Elliott commented: “By employing five actor-musicians we have been able to keep the performing company the same size as before, so audiences will be given the same artistic value.”
The show’s producers have gone as far to accuse the MU of trying to blackmail them by demanding the backing track be recorded in the UK.
Elliott said the show has never been billed as a musical, as “none of the leading characters sing”, and had always featured at least 40% pre-recorded music.
As a result of the dispute, Elliott has resigned from UK Theatre, a trade body which negotiates employment terms on behalf of producers, saying: “I decided that after 50-plus years of membership of UK Theatre, I would not submit to this blackmail and took the decision to resign.”
The MU did not reveal what form protests would take, but Trubridge said its “presence would be felt by the audiences and theatres”.