UPDATE July 30 — More Cohl background in fifth paragraph: While shameless, erstwhile rock promoter Michael Cohl let the New York Times bullhorn his vague plans for two new live-theater projects, Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Really Useful Group has confirmed its own plan to sue the Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark producer for the stunning cancellation of a North American Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar that had been planned for this summer.
RUG “is taking legal action against Michael Cohl’s Options Clause Entertainment following his cancellation of the 2014 North American Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar,” Lloyd Webber announced through UK spokeswoman Janine Shalom. “The Really Useful Group (RUG) has no option but to proceed with legal action to recover its costs associated with the project and in turn, satisfy outstanding payments to suppliers and contractors.”
Cohl and his producing partner Jeremiah Harris took over the foundering production of Spider-Man at the request of U2 superstars Bono and The Edge, who wrote the score for the Julie Taymor-helmed show. By the time they were done, Taymor had been fired, half a dozen openings had been postponed, several people had been seriously injured, the show had become the butt of jokes ranging from Late Night With David Letterman to the cover of the New Yorker magazine — Spidey had ballooned to an $85 million disaster, the biggest flop in Broadway history.
At its closing, Cohl and Harris promised a revamped version of the show for Las Vegas. In the Times on Monday, they said, “Oh, never mind,” about Vegas, but that maybe Spider-Man would tour arenas. Please focus attention, Cohl pleaded, on my two new ventures: a musical adaptation of the animated comedy Rio and “a live stage show” based on the film Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, according to the Times.
Superstar was actually the second Cohl project to go from red hot to stone cold in recent months. In April, he and his partners canceled an off-Broadway transfer of A Night With Janis Joplin starring amazing Tony nominee Mary Bridget Davies — just 48 hours before the announced first performance.
Now he’ll have to deal with Lloyd Webber, who is no slouch when it comes to protecting his products in court. The Superstar tour had been cast, sets built and aggressively promoted when it was abruptly canceled in May.
“Cohl through, Options Clause Entertainment LLC, had agreed to be the promoter of this tour and under the terms of the agreement was responsible for all of the costs associated with the U.S. dates,” the RUG statement said. “Since Mr Cohl’s unilateral decision to cancel the tour, The Really Useful Group has been tirelessly working to find an out of court settlement of the costs incurred by cancellation at such a late stage.”
Barney Wragg CEO of RUG said “The Really Useful Group is hugely disappointed to be let down in this way particularly taking into account the impact (both personal and financial) that it has had on the many people who have put so much hard work into this project. We had a sell-out UK Arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar in 2012 and, in 2013, the same production toured Australia also playing to capacity audiences with unprecedented success.”
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