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GENNARO v. ROSENFIELD

December 20, 1984

PETER GENNARO and GEANNIE PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiffs, against MAURICE ROSENFIELD and LOIS ROSENFIELD, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOETTEL

OPINION GOETTEL, D.J.:

In the eyes of many, Hollywood's heyday was the era of the musical, often based on the Broadway show. One of the preeminent films of that era, "Singin" In The Rain," starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O'Connor. This litigation concerns an apparently new phenomenon -- the proposed stage adaptation of that now legendary film.

 The plaintiffs, Peter Gennaro, and his company, Geannie Productions, Inc., allege that Mr. Gennaro has contracted to choregraph the proposed Broadway production of "Singin" In The Rain" for the defendant, Maurice Rosenfield. The plaintiffs claim that the defendant has breached this contract and, therefore, seek damages for breach of contract and defamation. Presently before the Court is the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction which, in essence, would prevent the defendant from engaging any other choreographer pending the outcome of the litigation. The Court must deny this motion for the reasons stated below.

 I. Background

 The individual plaintiff, Peter Gennaro, is a choreographer and dancer. He has choreographed a number of well-known Broadway musicals, including "Fiorello," "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," and "Annie" (for which he won a Tony Award). Mr. Gennaro is also the president of the corporate plaintiff, Geannie Productions, Inc. The defendants, Maurice and Lois Rosenfield, are husband and wife. Mr. Rosenfield is a Broadway producer. Among his credits are the 1980 Broadway musical "Barnum" and the 1983 revival of Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie." In 1980, Mr. Rosenfield acquired the right to adapt "Singin" In the Rain" for stage presentation from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Robbins Music Company. Rosenfield subsequently granted a license to Harold Fielding for the London production of "Singin" In The Rain."

 The events *fn1" giving rise to the instant controversy commenced in November 1980, when Ian Bevan, a British theatrical agent and manager, contacted Mr. Gennaro's agent and attorney, Robert M. Cavallo. According to Mr. Cavallo, Mr. Bevan said that Mr. Fielding wanted Peter Gennaro to choreograph the London production. Mr. Cavallo relayed this offer to Mr. Gennaro, who allegedly said that he would agree to choreograph the London production only on the condition that he also receive the option to choreograph any first-class stage production of "Singin" In The Rain" in the United States, including any Broadway production. Mr. Gennaro alleges that Mr. Bevan proceeded to negotiate with Mr. Cavallo for Mr. Gennaro's services and with Mr. Rosenfield to obtain the desired option. The plaintiff further alleges that an agreement was reached on both counts and that the option agreement was embodied in a January 20, 1983, letter signed by both Bevan and Rosenfield. Complaint P8.

 On February 2, 1983, Mr. Fielding forwarded a copy of the January 20 letter to Mr. Gennaro along with his own letter confirming an agreement between himself and Mr. Gennaro. According to this letter, Mr. Bevan had "negotiated conditions for [Mr. Gennaro to choreograph] the American and other first-class productions of "Singin" In The Rain" which [would] be separately confirmed to [Mr. Gennaro] by the American producer, Mr. Maurice Rosenfield." Affidavit of Robert M. Cavallo, Exhibit A. On April 5, 1983, Ronald Taft, Mr. Rosenfield's attorney, forwarded a draft contract to Mr. Cavallo and requested Mr. Cavallo's comments. According to Mr. Rosenfield, this contract concerned both the London and American productions. Mr. Gennaro maintains that the April 5 draft only concerned the London production. For unknown reasons, Mr. Cavallo informed Mr. Taft that he would not comment on the draft. At the same time, Mr. Cavallo was negotiating with Mr. Fielding. On April 14, 1984, Harold Fielding, Ltd. and Geannie Productions, Inc. entered into a written agreement with regard to Mr. Gennaro's role in the London production. Mr. Gennaro alleges that this agreement formalized the January 20 letter with respect to the American production. Complaint P8.

 In early June, Mr. Rosenfield visited Mr. Cavallo in his New York office. Precisely what transpired at that meeting is unclear. Soon thereafter, Mr. Cavallo sent Mr. Taft a letter commenting on the April 5 draft. There were no further discussions about that document.

 The London production opened on June 30, 1983, and is still running. Mr. Gennaro has met twice with Mr. and Mrs. Rosenfield since the opening, once in June 1983, and again in December 1983. Precisely what was said at those meetings is also in dispute.

 During the summer of 1984, Mr. Cavallo heard that the American production of "Singin" In The Rain" was being planned and that the plans did not involve Peter Gennaro. On September 17, 1984, Mr. Cavallo sent a mailgram to Mr. Rosenfield advising him that Mr. Gennaro had elected to exercise the option to choreograph the American production. On September 20, 1984, Mr. Taft responded for Mr. Rosenfield in a letter that stated, "Mr. Rosenfield has not asked Mr. Gennaro whether he would like to choreograph the production of "Singin" In The Rain" which Mr. Rosenfield plans to produce in New York." Affidavit of Robert M. Cavallo, Exhibit D. The plaintiffs then brought the instant action by order to show cause seeking, inter alia, a preliminary negative injunction enjoining the defendants and their agents from

 (a) producing any American first-class stage production of the musical "Singin" In The Rain" (the "American production") with choreography by any choreographer other than Peter Gennaro;

 (b) entering into any contract for choreography of the American production with any choreographer other than Peter Gennaro;

 (c) advertising, promoting or otherwise publicizing the American production, in print or any other media, whereby the actual or prospective choreography is represented as by any choreographer other than Peter Gennaro. . . .

 Order to Show Cause ...


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