Blue Man To Exit Toronto

Blue Man Group was expected to bang on its creative percussion instruments for a decade in Toronto, but the production will leave the city January 7th, and IATSE says it played a role.

David Baer, president of the local chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said in a statement that “there is no joy in this closing,” but claimed that the production at the 700-capacity Panasonic Theatre was partially unsuccessful because of “Clear Channel’s” (i.e., Live Nation’s) “anti-union approach.”

“It’s sad because it was so unnecessary,” Baer said. “We could have been their allies but they were determined to be our enemies. … We hope Clear Channel will now recognize that cooperation, not conflict, is a Canadian value that has served the Toronto arts scene well.”

IATSE boycotted the theatre last year when the production began. At issue was an apparent refusal to employ members of performers unions and musicians unions, according to the Toronto Star.

What was at the time Clear Channel Entertainment bought the New Yorker Theatre, spent $12 million in renovations, and sold naming rights to Panasonic.

Cheryl Batulis, business agent for IATSE Local 822, broke ranks and sent a letter to the editor of the Star in which she disputed Baer’s allegations.

“It should be known that although there was labour dissent with Blue Man Group when it first arrived here in Toronto, it was slowly changing with Live Nation and [IATSE] coming to agreement over representation of the wardrobe individuals who worked there,” Batulis said. “What really killed Blue Man Group was the ineffectual marketing of our great talent in the overall theatrical industry.”

She listed the lingering lack of tourism that SARS, 9/11 and the high Canadian dollar brought to Toronto. Batulis also suggested that there was sufficient population in Toronto (2.5 million) to keep the production alive.

About 70 employees will reportedly lose their jobs when the production closes. On the upside, the show will have brought in $14 million at the box office and will be attended by 250,000 people, making it the most successful off-Broadway shows in Toronto history, the Star said.