Up next: Ye Olde Samuel French sues Globe Theater, King's Men
All-female 'Grease' faces legal challenge
An all-woman production of Grease planned by two small Philadelphia theater companies has been threatened with legal action by the licensing agent and may not go on as scheduled.No doubt French, Inc. are just trying to protect the sterling legacy of the Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta production. Too bad Rosie O'Donnell slipped in under the radar.
The production of the popular high school musical by Brat Productions and Tapestry Theatre had been scheduled to preview tonight and open tomorrow at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia.
But on Friday, lawyers for Samuel French Inc., which licenses the script, sent a letter threatening legal action if the show went on with an all-female cast. Madi Distefano, artistic director of Brat and director of Grease, said the objection was later broadened to include the production's premise that the musical is being presented by a girls' high school.
Distefano said Samuel French "claims that we are in violation of our contract. We are of the belief that we are not in violation of our contract." She said that the contract she signed says nothing about casting or directorial vision. It stipulates only that no omissions or changes be made in the script, she said, adding, "We've not done any of that."
Distefano characterized the all-female casting as being akin to the now-common practice of "racially blind casting," casting a role written for a person of one race with a person of another race. "I don't think it's a big deal at all," she said. "I don't think it's anything radical that we're doing. I'm not claiming to be particularly adventurous casting women in men's roles."