Performers and musicians who worked on a recent production of Little Shop of Horrors have not been paid, despite the show having been staged months ago.
The local production which was at the Regal Theater in late 2021 hired a cast of local artists to bring the much-loved musical to life, they were hired alongside an orchestra and backstage crew.
Despite meeting their contractual obligations, the cast and crew appear to be left behind after LEGgroup Pty Ltd announced that the company would go into liquidation.
Scott-Leonard Landers, who ran the company, has been sued over unpaid payments to performers since the curtain fell on the production in mid-November.
The plight of unpaid artists has caught the attention of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union that represents the arts sector. The industry body says the information provided to unpaid cast and crew is concerning.
For performer Keir Shoosmith, the collapse of the business behind the show left him with an unpaid salary of $5,000. His partner Mark Retzlaff, who was also part of the cast, also remained unpaid.
“It’s just shocking.” Shoosmith told OUTinPerth. “I’m very lucky to have other income and to continue working for other companies.”
Some of the other performers on the show weren’t quite as fortunate, however, and for some of them, the income they had relied on to get through the next few months between engagements evaporated.
Shoosmith joined the production when it was well into its rehearsal period, Retzlaff had been cast in Seymour, one of the lead roles in the production.
When another actor left the production just 10 days before opening night, Shoosmith was an obvious choice as a replacement as he had already directed lines with his partner, it allowed him to learn the role quickly. vacant. He was hired as “swing”, a performer who learns several different roles to cover when people are away or sick.
The actor notes that the amount paid by the company was significantly higher than standard rates, but the performers were all assured by the production company that they had the financial capacity to pay the contracted amounts.
“It was a crazy amount of money he was offering people.” Shoosmith said, “For me alone it was $5,000, when I was really going to do two of the five shows. But I thought it was legit, it was at Regal, they worked hard and they’re going to do all the right things.
Shoosmith described the shows’ technical rehearsals as a nightmare, saying that when cast members asked about blocking or security issues, they were often shouted at by the creative team, and even when the show opened. , the backstage team was still rushing to put on the show. .
“The set for the finale was still under construction at intermission, it was just a shemozzle.” Shoosmith said.
Shoosmith said that after the show closed and the cast and crew had not been paid, Landers contacted him and offered him a payment plan that would span 10 months. The actor says the company has also suggested reclassifying unpaid contractors as employees.
It is alleged that the company then told the unpaid artists and crew that their first payment would cover the required income tax for the entire 10 months, and as such they would personally see no money before the second month of the plan.
“I messaged him and told him I never signed an employee form, I have my own ABN, don’t charge tax, it’s my responsibility.” Shoosmith called back.
Work experience Little Shop of Horrors and seeing no payouts impacted many cast and crew.
“It looks like a scam.” Shoosmith said.
LEGgroup operates several different organizations. Entertaind was the brand that staged the recent musical, but the company also operates as Australian School of Theatre, Bakkbone, Yeet!x, Chookas Show Manager and Get to The Show.
Andrew Markey, industry organizer at MEAA, said the situation was very concerning.
“MEAA is deeply concerned by the recent announcement that production company Entertaind and music school Australian School of Theater have made the decision to go into liquidation. We have recently confirmed that this will extend to the entire LEGgroup,” Markey said.
The union said it has been suing the group on behalf of members since December for non-payment of wages. According to MEAA, while many cast and crew were offered payment plans, the company immediately defaulted on the deal.
In a statement posted on social media, Scott-Leonard Landers (pictured above) said the musical only generated just over $9,000 in ticket sales.
“The final settlement for ticket sales was just over $9,000 – a figure that didn’t go far in comparison to the expenses of the show, nor the company,” Landers said.
“The advice I have received to date from our chosen liquidator indicates that most, if not all, of the cast and crew may be eligible for the Federal Equitable Law Guarantee by the current company. liquidation – this would see the payment to the employees much faster than if I continued to try to get out of the situation.
Landers said he would leave the professional theater industry in Perth for good, but said people needed to stop “vilifying” him.
“I tried, and I failed, and it’s on me. I’m not looking to excuse my actions, but as I leave professional theater in Perth for good, I’m looking for the public vilification to stop so we can all get on with our lives,” Lander said.
The MEAA says Landers’ information to performers about the possibility that they could eventually be paid by the federal government program was concerning. Since most of the group’s employees are classified as individual contractors, most would likely not be covered by the government employee safety net.
The union also said that teachers employed by the school would suffer a double blow, as customers were unlikely to get any refunds on their fees already paid, which would severely limit the ability of teachers and students to organize work continuity. and learning. individual basis.
The production ran for four days from November 24 to 27 at the Regal Theater which has a seating capacity of 1,408. Tickets for the show cost between $40 and $70.
A sold-out season would have brought the company hundreds of thousands in potential revenue, but with just a few tickets sold, the revenue generated wouldn’t even have covered the salaries of a handful of performers.
OUTinPerth has contacted Scott-Leonard Landers who declined to comment.
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