Row Over ‘Phantom’ Payment

The row between American show producer Van Joyce and three eastern European promoters appears destined to end up in court.

It’s been a messy fight with what appear to be unpleasant threats as Joyce, president of New York-based Joyce Entertainment Services, says promoters from Tallinn, Riga and Prague are looking for excuses to avoid paying settlements on last year’s “Phantom Of The Opera” shows.

The promoters, Juri Makarov of Makarov Music in Estonia, Marek Rejman from Czech Republic’s GSMA and Vladimir Ikusov from Baltic Concert Agency in Lithuania, say they weren’t happy with the show.

“I paid for a Mercedes, but I understand it was more like a Trabant,” said Rejman, who parted with a $240,000 deposit for eight shows at a 5,100-capacity Tallinn Saku Arena and ended up not doing any of them.

“Sales were so slow that I cut to four shows, but then I began to feel that I didn’t have the promotional support to sell even that many,” he explained. He had sold 3,000 tickets.

Despite his losses, Rejman said he will let the matter lie as long as Joyce Agency doesn’t pursue him for the full fee – another $160,000 – for each of the canceled shows.

After the Riga show at Skonto Arena, Ikusov visited Joyce in his hotel room – allegedly to “discuss the production” – but the U.S. agent called security and had the Latvian promoter escorted from the building.

Later, when Joyce returned to the U.S., he received a mail from Makarov that implied he’d get a visit from Ikusov’s “friends from Brighton Beach,” which the American took to be a clear reference to the Russian Mafia, which has set up its U.S. HQ in that part of Brooklyn.

The arguments over the show center on whether it included the Broadway stars Joyce had promised, the costumes and the sets, and an equipment failure that made scene changes problematic. Both parties are blaming the other for the latter point of contention.

Letters of complaint led to coverage in major Estonian national papers including Postimees and SL Ohtuleht, and on Internet sites including EPL and Delfi.

The promoters claim they asked for broadcast-quality footage of the show but received a 10-year-old VHS.

“Van Joyce claims that this was shown on NBC but I doubt it very much,” Makarov complained.

Joyce claims Makarov had no complaints when the shows took place and on Dec. 7, after the last of four shows at Tallinn Saku Arena, the Estonian promoter signed a paper acknowledging he still owes $60,000.