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The League of American Theaters and Producers seem to have forced the Grinch to stop stealing Christmas. At least for now. (Good news! See 11/21/07 update below.)

At first, the striking stagehands looked to many like the bad guys. After all, the strike called by IATSE (Local 1) shut down most of Broadway just as prime holiday season was gearing up. On the other hand, they’ve been without a contract since the end of July and the producers were showing no sign of coming around.

The picketers took their places in front of the St. James Theater, where Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! just returned for what was expected to be a sold-out, kiddie-pleasing holiday season. Didn’t do much to win support for their cause. But because the show’s producers had negotiated a separate contract with Local 1 last year, the union ordered the picketers to let the show go on. And so the picketers moved elsewhere – and all appeared well in Whoville.

Then came the real grinch. The League of American Theaters and Producers told the show that it could NOT open, despite its special contract. And they invoked solidarity as the reason.

Now I am all for solidarity. And I was actually open to a lot of the points the producers are making. Some of the rules seem prohibitively costly and, in my humble opinion, could stand a little mutually-agreed upon tweaking. But after the way the producers walked out on what we are told were some solid negotiations last night – we had all assumed they would stay until this was settled so that shows could re-open in time for Thanksgiving – and then with this additional grinch-like move, my split sympathy is most definitely marching over to the side of Local 1.

James Sanna, one of the producers of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, says they are going to court tomorrow to try to get a ruling that allows them to open that night. There are 8 other shows exempt from this strike because of alternative contracts and it seems to me, there is also room for this exception to be made.

This is a tough one. I know. I believe in solidarity and it would be hypocritical for me to support only union solidarity. But in this case, what the producers just did feels less like the brotherhood/sisterhood of solidarity and more like a big bowl of sour grapes. I don’t see you forcing the 8 other shows to close!

I’m sorry producers…I love what you do and often dreamed of being one of you, but this feels downright mean-spirited. Just think about the faces of all those dear disappointed little kids! Not that my heart doesn’t go out to the faces of all disappointed theater-goers…but when you shut down a show for kids about a holiday grinch, you have to expect some bad press!

If this isn’t the most ironic move you could make, I don’t know what is. Even Cindy Lou Who would find it hard to love you!

For more on the story from today’s NY Times:

Stagehands and Producers Break Off Talks

And now, a few words from Pete Seeger:

11/21/07 UPDATE: Judge agrees and brings the Grinch back to Broadway! Some things are just the right thing to do.