Broadway Producers and Unions Reach Emergency Relief Agreement

In the wake of a complete shutdown of New York theaters, a coalition of stage unions reached a deal Friday afternoon with the organization representing Broadway producers for cash payments and additional health contributions to aid stage workers in distress.

The emergency relief agreement provides short-term pay and health benefits, and applies to for-profit Broadway theaters and, in a pact announced Saturday morning, to Broadway shows on tour as well.

“We are grateful to be able to tell our members that the industry came together to provide some compensation during this terrible time,” said the Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds (COBUG), representing 14 labor organizations with about 75,000 members. “Broadway needs to come back and working together is the best way to make that happen. Now Congress must do its part for arts and entertainment workers on Broadway and beyond to ensure they have access to unemployment insurance and health care during this industry-wide shutdown.”

Theaters went dark on March 12. The Broadway deal, according to a union representative speaking on background, includes payment for the remainder of the interrupted week at normal salary but capped at 150 percent of the contractual minimums — which means a pay cut for some — followed by two weeks of salary at minimum scale, implying a pay cut for even more workers. They’ll receive health, pension and 401(k) benefits during those 2-1/2 weeks, and then health benefits only through April 12, with a commitment to discuss the possibility of additional health contributions the week of April 6.

“The leaders of our industry have been working tirelessly with our partners at the unions to forge an agreement that will address many of the needs of our employees during this crisis,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League, which represents over 700 producers and theaters. “We are a community that cares about each other, and we are pleased that we can offer some relief. Once we are past this challenging moment, we look forward to welcoming everyone back to our theatres to experience the best of live entertainment together once again.”

The deal for shows scheduled to tour through Sept. 20 is the same as the Broadway agreement, while for shorter shows the salary payments last only one to one and a half weeks. But while the for-profit New York flagships and their touring equivalents are receiving some relief, no deals are in place with non-profits, off-Broadway houses, off-off-Broadway venues and theaters large and small throughout the rest of the country, such as so-called League of Resident Theaters (LORT) houses. None of those are members of the Broadway League.

“It’s the best deal we could get under trying circumstances,” said Actors Equity president Kate Shindle, as quoted in The New York Times. “We’ve been trying to find the sweet spot between getting the greatest number of benefits for our members, while still trying to make sure we don’t bankrupt the individual shows in the process. Our members would like to have jobs to go back to.”

The League echoed that point.

“We worked really hard with our colleagues in all 14 unions to come up with a fair and generous contract that we hope will tide everyone over until other forms of support can be developed,” said St. Martin in the NYT piece. “Our goal was also to get as many shows to come back as possible, and with the slim margins for 90 percent of the shows on Broadway, we had to take that into consideration.”

A hoped-for reopening on April 13 seems unduly optimistic in light of current forecasts and the surging caseload in New York — nearly 12,000 as of this writing. Meanwhile, some theaters in California, New York and elsewhere are streaming recordings of their productions under a special agreement with Actors Equity.

COBUG-affiliated unions represent actors, artists, dancers, singers, musicians, playwrights, directors and choreographers, makeup artists, set, costume, lighting, sound and projection designers, stagehands, stage managers, ushers and ticket-takers, box office personnel, wardrobe workers, hairstylists, porters, press agents, company managers and house managers.

Among them, it was not clear how the relief deals work for playwrights, whose organization — the Dramatists Guild — is part of COBUG but is not actually a union and does not set minimums. (Disclosure: this reporter is an associate member.) Playwrights are sole proprietors who license their work to producers for negotiated prices that can include sharing in a profit pool. A DG spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.


Garth Brooks on Kenny Rogers: ‘I Can’t Think of Anybody Who Taught Me That Much’: Exclusive

Kenny Rogers, who died Friday (March 20), was the first major act that Garth Brooks ever opened for. A few months after the release of his 1989 self-titled debut album, Brooks supported the northeast U.S. leg on the superstar’s 1989 Christmas tour. The friendship and lessons that Brooks learned from Rogers have stayed with him ever since. Brooks, who inducted Rogers into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013, remembers his early days with Rogers.

Anybody that grew up in the era that I grew up in, Kenny Rogers was a pop artist. Kenny would tell you if he stood in front of a country crowd, he felt so pop, and if he stood in front of a pop crowd, he felt so country. It wasn’t like Kenny Rogers was one of my heroes. But giving the [opening slot] in the northeast to somebody in a cowboy hat was an opportunity that [Brooks’ manager] Bob Doyle said, “You do not want to miss. There’s no other way you’re going to get up there.”

Kenny Rogers, by working with him, became one of my heroes. Just watching how he treated his band, his guys, everybody, they’d all been with him for 100 years. It was like, “This is how you do it.” I’m really, really thankful that Bob was smart enough to tell me to get on that tour.

There was no way you could be around him and not learn something. He was one of the most successful artists on the planet. If you want to do record sales, look at “The Gambler” and go, “Oh, okay, you can sell that many?” Because I think that sold something stupid like 13 or 14 million. It sure showed all of us that country artists can do this as well.


Then when it came time for entertaining, he was amazing. He has his [stage] in the round. He had a microphone with a cord on it because that’s what he felt comfortable with. The cord went to this wireless unit that went around the stage with him and he’d use it as a prop. If he would forget a word, he would look at the cord and push it around like his mic went out. He’d put it out in the crowd. He used it like a musician would an instrument and so you watched him and you watched him closely. I can’t think of anybody who taught me that much about entertaining other than Reba McEntire. Those two people were the ultimate entertainers and you learned every day from them.

Off the road, he was always with his band and crew. They’d play basketball. They’d do everything. That strengthening, that treating it like a sports team and having team dinners and stuff was great. We have at least one, maybe two guys, off that tour with us because they were such high quality people. When we were looking for a rigger, Lanny Landers, the guy who’s been with us since 1991, 1992, was Kenny’s rigger. If I [stole] him from Kenny, it’s the best thing I ever did.

I just enjoyed how honest he was. He wasn’t a fake person. Who you saw on the stage was who you saw in sweats offstage.

The advice he gave me was to enjoy myself when I was out there. You tell me, was that not the best piece of advice ever? One of the first things we did was Westbury [N.Y.] Music Fair. Westbury was a place in the round and he’d sold I don’t know how many nights out there. We were there, camped in. We would go on [and] some nights it was three songs, some nights it was five songs, you just had to be ready to do whatever, whenever. He would do his show. We would stay after and all those people who came to see Kenny Rogers, we would be in the lobby signing autographs and taking pictures for anybody who wanted to stop. He found out and the next day, he came up to me and said, “Hats off to you. That’s the smartest thing. They may come here to see someone else, but they’re going to leave here knowing the new guy.”

No matter what he was doing, he was the ultimate professional and what he will be remembered for is the same way that I want to be remembered, if that’s even possible, because he was Springsteen. He was Neil Diamond. He was entertainment. I was lucky, lucky, lucky just to get to be a page in that book.

– As told to Melinda Newman

David Bryan of Bon Jovi Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan has tested positive for coronavirus, he revealed in an update on social media.

Bryan, a founding member of the band as well as a Tony Award-winning composer (Memphis), said his condition has been improving after being ill and quarantined for the past week.

“I just got my results back today and tested positive for corona virus,” Bryan wrote on Instagram on Saturday (March 21). “I’ve been sick for a week and feeling better each day.”

“Please don’t be afraid!!!” he said. “It’s the flu not the plague. I’ve have been quarantined for a week and will for another week. And when I feel better I’ll get tested again to make sure I’m free of this nasty virus. Please help out each other. This will be over soon… with the help of every American!!”

The same evening that Bryan posted the news of his diagnosis, the group’s frontman, Jon Bon Jovi, announced his support of fans in Chicago holding an at-home “Livin’ on a Prayer” sing-along from their windows Saturday night. “I’m just warming up getting ready to sing along with you. In these trying times, I am with you with all of my heart and my soul,” he said while playing guitar in a video clip on Instagram.”Sing it out, baby. We’re all going to come through this together.”

Bryan is the latest member of the music community to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Singer-songwriter Charlotte Lawrence, producer Andrew Watt and gospel singer Sandi Patty are among the artists who have shared their experiences with coronavirus, and Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge was hospitalized after testing positive.

See his note below.


Steve Martin Provides the Soothing ‘Banjo Balm’ You Didn’t Know You Needed: Watch

In these tumultuous times, less is more, and Steve Martin has casually embraced that ethos with a simple one-man bluegrass jam in the woods.

Though Martin is famous for his hilarious Hollywood career, the actor and comedian is also a passionate, Grammy-winning American roots musician with nine titles hitting the Billboard 200 albums chart.

On Saturday (March 23), Martin took it upon himself to spice up the timeline of his Twitter followers by picking up the banjo and indulging in a brief “banjo balm” in a leafy grove to take them away from the headlines for 79 seconds of pleasant picking.

Watch Martin’s brief banjo reprieve below.

Mariah Carey Is ‘Staying Home and Staying Active’ During Coronavirus Crisis: Watch

Staying safe at home with gloves and Lysol spray by her side, Mariah Carey is keeping up with her routine (with a touch of humor) amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The pop icon, doing her part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, shared a video of herself on social media Saturday afternoon (March 21) with the caption “Staying home & staying active with #demgloves!”

“I believe it was a young Jermaine Dupri that said this is the point where I need everybody to put their gloves on,” she joked in the clip, in which she works out to a new spin on their 2005 track “It’s Like That.”

“But for real, ya gotta just keep it going with this whole thing. I don’t know what else to say,” Carey said.

The latest check-in with her fans follows her recent take on a handwashing tutorial featuring a Mariah classic, “Fantasy.”

See her new Instagram update below.


Kenny Rogers’ Essential Duets with Dolly Parton, Dottie West, Sheena Easton & More: Listen

Kenny Rogers certainly needed no one’s help to have a hit record, but many of his greatest and most memorable tunes were his duets.

Rogers’ gruff vocals played the perfect partner to some of country music’s sweetest voices, including Dottie West, Dolly Parton and Alison Krauss, as well as pop stars Sheena Easton and Kim Carnes. They brought out a tenderness — and often raw sexiness — to his performances.

Below, listed chronologically, are some of Rogers’ top duets and the position they reached on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.

“Every Time Two Fools Collide,” Rogers & Dottie West – No. 1, 1978
The first single and title track from Rogers’ and West’s first duets album went straight to the top. According to lore, West was recording the song for a solo project, but it turned into a duet — and subsequent duets album — after the two ran into each other in the studio. One of country music’s all-time great partnerships was born with this string-heavy ballad about two “fools” who can’t stay out of each other’s way.

“Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight,” Rogers & Dottie West – No. 2, 1978
This spicy single following “Every Time Two Fools Collide” showed the upside of, ummm, “love” with lines such as West’s “When you made love to me tonight, I  felt as if I’d died and gone to heaven” and Rogers’ “You’ve got the kind of body that was made to give a man a lot of pleasure.” This live clip from one of the duo’s tours together is pure delight, given that West’s husband is the drummer in the band and, in a bit of foreshadowing, Rogers accidentally calls West “Dolly.”

“Til I Can Make It on My Own,” Rogers & Dottie West – No. 3, 1979
This remake of a song was first recorded and taken to No. 1 in 1976 by Tammy Wynette, and written by Wynette, George Richey (i.e. her soon-to-be-husband George Jones) and Billy Sherrill. Rogers and West tear into the heartbreak from note one, adding a twist as a duet as the protagonist pleads with his/her former lover “’Til I get used to losing you/Let me keep on using you/’til I can make it on my own.”

“All I Ever Need Is You,” Rogers & Dottie West – No. 1 (1 week), 1979
Like “’Til I Can Make It On My Own,” “All I Ever Need is You” appeared on Classics, an album of cover songs by Rogers and West released in 1979. First popularized by Sonny & Cher, the song in Rogers and West’s hands is a sweet, toe-tapping ditty.

“Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer,” Rogers and Kim Carnes  – No. 3, 1980
Written by Carnes and David Ellington, the tune finds the raspy-voiced vocalists wrapping their voices around each other in this aching track about falling in love with a dreamer who will always, always “break your heart.” The song, which the pair recorded live in the studio, also reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

“What Are We Doin’ in Love,” Dottie West with Rogers – No. 1, 1981
Rogers’ and West’s third and final No. 1 appeared on West’s 1981 album, Wild West. The two returned to the topic they cover best in this sweet ballad: mismatched lovers who shouldn’t be together, but have found themselves inexplicably (and, in this case, somewhat delightedly) drawn to each other.

“Islands in the Stream,” Rogers with Dolly Parton – No. 1, 1983
Simply one of the best — and biggest — duets ever recorded, the peppy “Islands in the Stream,” written by the Bee Gees, benefitted greatly from Rogers’ and Parton’s undeniable chemistry, which was so great that for years, the two had to deny that they, like the characters in the song, were actual lovers.

“We’ve Got Tonight,” Rogers & Sheena Easton – No. 1, 1983
On paper, there is no reason this duet between the country titan and Scottish pop star should have worked, but it did magnificently. Their remake of the Bob Seger hit about two lovers enjoying one last night together topped the country charts and also reached No. 6 on the Hot 100, as well as No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

“Real Love,” Dolly Parton with Rogers – No. 1, 1985
Parton and Rogers paired together again, this time for the second single and title track from Parton’s 1985 album, Real Love. The mid-tempo tune is a sweet ode to fealty, but fails to ignite any of the spark of “Islands in the Stream.” The video, a montage of Parton and Rogers in the studio and onstage, is a pure delight.

“Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” Rogers & Ronnie Milsap – No. 1 (1 week), 1987
Rogers paired with Carnes again, in a way, on this duet. Carnes penned the track (originally titled “Make No Mistake, He’s Mine), which she and Barbra Streisand recorded in 1984. The swelling song about two men fighting over the same love features one of Rogers’ best vocals.

“Buy Me a Rose,” Rogers with Alison Krauss & Billy Dean – No. 1 (1 week), 2000
When this song — which features Krauss and Dean on backing vocals — hit No. 1, it made Rogers, at 61, the oldest country singer to have a chart-topper. Dean comes in more at the end, but the leather-and-lace sweetness of Krauss and Rogers on the choruses is simply gorgeous.

“You Can’t Make Old Friends,” with Dolly Parton – No. 57, 2013
Released 30 years after “Islands in the Stream,” the song’s opening line, “What will I do when you’re gone?” and “When Saint Peter opens the gate and you come walking in, I’ll be there waiting for you” take on a bittersweet wistfulness now, following Rogers’ passing. Co-written by Don Schlitz, who wrote Rogers’ megabit, “The Gambler.” Grab a tissue before watching the official video.


Kenny Rogers: He Was Even Bigger Than You Realize

It may be hard for people who weren’t born yet in the late ’70s and early ’80s to appreciate just how dominant a figure Kenny Rogers was in both the pop and country scene in those years.

Rogers, who died on Friday (March 20) at age 81, was arguably the hottest star in the music business in 1980, the year that “Lady” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits topped the Billboard 200 album chart for two weeks. Rogers turned 42 that year, which is old to be the hottest act in the business. Michael Jackson, who turned 25 in 1983 — the year Thriller electrified the pop world — better fits our collective image of what the hottest pop star in the business should look and move like.

Many who grew up on the VMAs and TRL probably think that Rogers was a little old and, well, unexciting, to be a pop megastar. But, having lived through those years, I assure you he was.

Think about it: Kim Carnes was a B-level hitmaker who had had only one previous top 40 entry on the Hot 100 when she teamed that year with Rogers for a duet, “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer,” which ended up going top five. Likewise, Lionel Richie was just the lead singer in Commodores, the perennial runners-up to Earth, Wind & Fire as the premier pop/R&B group of that era, when he got a call in 1980 to write and produce a song for Rogers. (That song, of course, was “Lady,” Rogers’ first No. 1 on the Hot 100.)

The association with Rogers, and their respective collaborative hits, sent both of their careers soaring. Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” and Richie’s “Endless Love,” a duet with Diana Ross, each topped the Hot 100 for nine weeks in 1981. Richie officially left Commodores and launched a solo career in 1982, which ended up making him an enduring superstar. Would he have hit that level without Rogers giving him that boost? That’s unknowable. In any event, it was a huge break in Richie’s career.

In the ’70s and ’80s, Rogers won enough awards to fill a museum. He amassed 19 American Music Awards, a total equaled or bettered by only four other artists in the show’s long history. (Taylor Swift leads with 29 AMAs, followed by Jackson with 24, Alabama with 23 and Whitney Houston with 22.) Rogers won the AMA Award for favorite country album five times. That was the record for that category until last year, when Carrie Underwood won in the category for a sixth time.

Rogers also won 10 Academy of Country Music Awards, including the 1978 award for entertainer of the year. He was just the second artist (following Glen Campbell) to win the ACM Award for single record of the year twice — taking the award for “Lucille” (1977) and “Islands in the Stream,” a collab with Dolly Parton (1983).

Rogers won five Country Music Assn. Awards, but never managed to win entertainer of the year. He took three CMA Awards in 1979, but lost the big one to Willie Nelson, who won no other CMA Awards that year.

There are omissions and oddities at every awards show, but Rogers’ failure to ever win entertainer of the year at the CMAs—despite five consecutive nominations from 1977-81—just feels wrong. In those years, Rogers all but defined what was possible for an entertainer in country music. (Rogers hosted that 1979 CMA show, by the way.)

Finally, Rogers won three Grammys — twice for best male country vocal performance (“Lucille” in 1977 and “The Gambler” in 1979) and once for best duo country vocal performance (for a Ronnie Milsap collab, “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” in 1987). The latter song marked a reunion of sorts with Carnes, who wrote the song and recorded it in 1984 in a collab with Barbra Streisand. Rogers was also Grammy-nominated for both album and record of the year for The Gambler and its title track (1979). He was nominated for record of the year again the following year for “Lady.”

Rogers was finally voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013, after several stars whose breakthroughs followed his, including George Strait (who was voted into the Hall in 2006), Vince Gill (2007), Reba McEntire (2011) and Garth Brooks (2012).

The telegenic Rogers was also a frequent host of top award shows. He hosted or co-hosted the CMAs four times, the Grammys twice and the ACMs and AMAs once each. As luck would have it, the ACMs have a two-hour special coming up on April 5 — and you don’t have to be a “Gambler” to say it’s a safe bet that they include a Rogers tribute.