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Dionne Warwick, former Shirelles sue producers of Broadway's 'Baby It's You'

April 27, 2011 |  2:50 pm


It wasn't the congratulatory opening-night bouquet they were hoping for.

On the eve of the big debut, the producers of "Baby It's You," the new jukebox musical at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York, have been hit with a lawsuit filed by a group of musicians claiming that their names and likenesses are being used without permission.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by representatives of the singer Dionne Warwick and three former members of the Shirelles -- Beverly Lee and the late Doris Coley Jackson and Addie Harris McFadden. The list of plaintiffs also includes R&B singer Chuck Jackson.

Papers filed in New York state's Supreme Court claim that producers of the musical are "cashing in" on the success of the singers and using their "names, likenesses, and biographical information without their consent."

The lawsuit notes that the singers were "cheated out of their royalties when they were young and popular [and] are now victimized again."

Oren Warshavsky, who is representing the plaintiffs for the firm Baker Hostetler, said in a phone interview that the singers aren't seeking to halt the Broadway production. He said the timing of the lawsuit was "fortuitous."

The parties named as defendants in the lawsuit are Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Broadway Baby.

"Baby It's You" was developed in Los Angeles before transferring to Broadway. The musical had two developmental runs at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood, and then debuted at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2009.

The musical tells the true story of Florence Greenberg, a housewife who left her suburban New Jersey existence to become a hugely successful music producer in the '60's. The show features performers who portray the Shirelles, Warwick and Jackson.

Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote in his review of the Pasadena production that the show is "a patchwork musical" that "won't reach the average mark without a major rewrite and some recasting."

Representatives for the Broadway production were not immediately available for comment.


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-- David Ng

Upper photo: A scene from the Broadway production of "Baby It's You" at the Broadhurst Theatre. Credit: Ari Mintz / Associated Press

Lower photo: A scene from the Pasadena Playhouse production of the musical in 2009. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times