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'Grinch' needs a miracle on 44th Street

The limited holiday engagement of “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” won’t reopen until the strike between Broadway stagehands and theater producers is settled.
Image: Steve Kenyon, Rees Kenyon
Rees Kenyon, 4, holds a sign in support of his father Steve Kenyon, a musician in "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical."Mary Altaffer / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Could the Grinch get Christmas stolen out from under him?

The limited holiday engagement of “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” won’t reopen until the lengthening labor dispute between Broadway stagehands and theater producers is settled, James Sanna, the show’s producer, said Monday.

“It’s not like there’s an option to rebook the show,” Sanna said, adding that the musical “is losing a significant amount of money.”

Sanna had wanted to resume Tuesday, the start of the lucrative Thanksgiving holiday when “Grinch” was to play 15 performances — almost twice the usual number of weekly performances for Broadway shows.

The producer said an agreement for “Grinch” was reached over the summer and signed by both the League of American Theatres and Producers and Local 1, the stagehands union, and the current contract wrangle does not involve his production. Sanna is not a member of the league.

But the owners of the St. James Theatre, where “Grinch,” is playing, said no.

“’The Grinch’ will not reopen until the union signs agreements and ends the strike at all theaters and all the other shows that have been closed by their strikes reopen on Broadway,” Jujamcyn Theatres, which does belong to the league, said in a statement.

There are only seven weeks left for the limited-engagement run of the show.

“We need a miracle on 44th Street,” Sanna said.

The family friendly musical opened Nov. 9, one day before the strike began. Cast members were visibly upset by the news that the show wouldn’t go on, some crying at Monday’s news conference.

“We’ve been jerked around so much,” said Amy Griffin, who plays Cherry Who. “We have little children waiting to make their Broadway debut in this show who are just miserable.”

Steve Kenyon, a member of the orchestra, brought his 4-year-old son who held a sign that said, “Don’t be a Grinch, let my daddy work.”

Sanna said he received a phone call from James Claffey, the Local 1 president, who said union members would be willing to go back to work on “Grinch.”

“Because of the unique nature of this limited engagement, particularly its inability to extend beyond the holiday season, Local 1 supports ’The Grinch’ in its efforts to open its doors to families,” Claffey said in a statement.

Sanna said he didn’t understand why Jujamcyn Theatres was locking the performers out.

“We are very disappointed,” he said “The cast is ready to work.”

Neither side had much to say beyond their initial statements late Sunday after talks between Local 1 and the league collapsed.

“I think they had the perimeters of a deal on the table,” Norman Samnick, an entertainment lawyer who specializes in labor relations for Bryan Cave LLP, said Monday. “I think one side wanted more and the other side walked out.”

The stagehands — who include scenery and prop handlers, carpenters, electricians, and lighting and sound technicians — have been working without a contract since the end of July. Negotiations have focused on how many stagehands are required to open a Broadway show and keep it running.

Before Saturday, the two sides hadn’t talked since Nov. 8.

Eight shows, whose theaters have separate contracts with the league, remain unaffected by the walkout. They include four productions — “Pygmalion,” “The Ritz,” “Mauritius” and “Cymbeline” — playing at nonprofit theaters, and four other shows: “Young Frankenstein,” “Mary Poppins,” “Xanadu” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” All off-Broadway productions are open, too.