UPDATE, with musicians’ response: The pre-recorded Disney concert set for streaming Monday evening as a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS ’ COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund has been canceled. The charitable organization was unable to reach an agreement with the American Federation of Musicians over streaming rights.
[Musicians who performed at the concert have urged Hair to reverse his decision. See Deadline’s latest story here.]
“Celebrating 25 Magical Years of Disney on Broadway” was staged last Nov. 4 at the New Amsterdam Theatre to mark the silver anniversary of Disney’s arrival on Broadway. At the time, the event raised $570,426 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
A free stream of the taped show was set to begin at 7 p.m. ET on Monday, April 13, to raise money for the COVID-19 fund. Agreements to permit the streaming without additional fees were obtained by Broadway Cares from Disney Theatrical Productions, SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association, but American Federation of Musicians balked, according to a statement issued by Broadway Cares.
“As theaters remain dark,” the announcement said, “entertainment professionals are facing unprecedented health and financial challenges requiring immediate attention and support. Broadway producers have offered a $1 million challenge and are matching every new donation to the fund dollar-for-dollar. Although the stream is canceled, donations can still be made at broadwaycares.org/help2020.”
The announcement also noted, “The COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund, which is being administered by The Actors Fund, is providing those onstage, backstage, in the orchestra pit and behind the scenes urgent health care and immediate financial support during this pandemic and work shutdown.”
But in an email from a union leader to a Disney exec, obtained by The New York Times, AFM’s international president Ray Hair wrote, “When you treat musicians as if they were slaves, you reap the consequences” and “We are in a zero employment situation. I am waiving nothing. That’s final. You should want to pay the musicians, who have no income during this crisis.”
The Disney concert featured a 15-piece orchestra providing music for a cast of 79 performers, all presenting songs from the many Disney Broadway musicals over the years. One of the highlights was a reunion of 18 Newsies stars from the show’s Broadway and national touring productions.
In newly added interview segments, Ryan McCartan (Frozen, TV’s Liv and Maddie) was to have spoken remotely with various Disney on Broadway stars.