Little did I know that my career's best work was doomed from the start - because of my own agent and law firm.
In 2011, my attorney Conrad Rippy approached me about creating a jukebox musical from the catalog of his clients the Go-Go’s. As I am not much a fan of jukebox musicals, I declined. But I reconsidered after a couple of other long-term projects failed to generate income – including a Broadway musical called Bring It On that ran twenty weeks, from which I did not make a cent. Every week the theater owners called the agents of the writers, informing them that we had to surrender our royalties “to keep the show running.” The show was the result of three years of grueling work. I needed an income, so I considered the Go-Go’s catalog again.
Rather than creating a by-the-numbers “jukebox musical” (a category that too often deserves an eye-roll) I decided to innovate: I’d go the distance to create a legitimate work of art whose cheeky twist was that it used the catalog of the Go-Go’s. Low expectations would be its hook, offering audiences and critics a surprising, fresh take on the form. I would mash up High Art and Pop Culture in a seamless joyride of broad audience appeal.
Thus inspired, I wrote a brief treatment that got all aboard excited …
… including three first-time producers who bought the stage rights to the Go-Go’s catalog: GWYNETH PALTROW, DONOVAN LEITCH and RICK FERRARI. Ms. Paltrow, a wealthy A-list celebrity, was largely a figurehead and I suspect that she knows little of the ugliness to unfold. As first-time producers, Leitch and Ferrari were gullible marks, easily manipulated – and soon to fall under the thrall of my representation.
Rippy, Buzzetti, the Go-Go’s and producers were effusive about my proposal.
So began negotiations with the producers. In the December 2012 Deal Memo, Rippy and Buzzetti wrote the following language concerning my approvals over my creative team. NOTE: Without fail, originating authors in theater have a hand in choosing their collaborators and possess veto power.
APPROVALS. Sole approval of the book, and all standard author approvals - cast, creative team, designers, dispositions, understudies, replacements, etc. All approvals to be unanimous between bookwriter and composer/lyricists.
Please note the term: “standard author approvals.” Such approvals of the creative team are “standard” to be sure. Beyond the Go-Go’s and me, the key slots on the creative team of Head Over Heels were :
2. MUSIC DIRECTOR (a co-writer who arranges pre-existing songs to tell story)
No contract in Broadway history had denied such “standard approvals” (Rippy’s words) to a musical’s creator who works for years, taking jawdropping risks in the public eye. As an artist, you don't want to deliver your work into the hands of just anybody, because they could blow it.
Fast forward six months to May 23, 2013. This is a draft of the Deal Memo, sent to me that day by Mr. Rippy. I did not notice that my approvals were no longer “standard.” Such discoveries were Mr. Rippy’s job:
APPROVALS: Book, cast (including understudies), designers; musical director; orchestrator; music arranger; rehearsal pianist; translators; and any replacements of the foregoing. Also, dispositions of merged musical; cast album label and material terms of cast album agreement.
I was never informed by my lawyer Conrad Rippy nor my agent John Buzzetti that my approval over my DIRECTOR was lifted from the contract - by them. John Buzzetti wanted to ensure that his client would go into the director’s slot when he so chose, even if against my wishes. And so it would come to pass much later.
Mr. Rippy informed me about other changes in the evolving contract but neglected to inform me about this crucial aspect of the loss of my creative control over my own work.
Two weeks later on June 11 2013, Rippy sent me the final draft of the contract – which I signed. I was entirely unaware of the additional omissions, nor the swindle underway:
APPROVALS: Book; cast (including understudies); designers: translators; and any replacements of the foregoing. Also, dispositions of merged musical; cast album label and material terms of cast album agreement.
Now missing from my contract were both key creative slots: DIRECTOR and MUSIC DIRECTOR.
Had my lawyer and agent made me aware, I would never have signed the contract. But I was never told. And I did not notice. I engaged a lawyer to pay attention to such matters.
This is theft of a most insidious sort, the evidence of which I only discovered recently. It is the Rosetta Stone that sheds clear light on the elaborate, deceptive mischief that follows. These small points are hard proof of the intentions behind my exploitation, evidence of the bad faith of my representatives.
Through a calculated torrent of lies and abuse, Buzzetti would install his clients in the very slots deleted from my contract: DIRECTOR and MUSIC DIRECTOR, the latter against my clearly stated wishes. My gifted Music Director Carmel Dean would be fired, her arrangements pulled, the careful musical that we built together over three years destroyed. Its audience appeal was no accident, for Carmel and I were rigorously on top of the crowd’s experience at every turn, working arm in arm at every step.
 On Head Over Heels, these three categories (Musical Director / Orchestrator / Music Arranger) were undertaken by Carmel Dean. For brevity I shall use the term “Music Director” to describe the multifaceted position.