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Gold: A Wise Decision?
The New York Times reported on February 2, 2002 that the legal case brought by Gold! authors Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman against producer Scott Rudin has been settled. Under settlement terms, Rudin has agreed to drop all claims to the musical in exchange for reimbursement of his nearly $200,000 development investment, if the show is commercially produced.

  Palm Beach Historical Society
Wilson and Addison Mizner

In October 2001, Chicago's Goodman Theatre agreed to present the musical setting an opening date of September 2002. Soon after, Rudin threatened legal action if the production proceeded. Cease and desist orders were sent on behalf of Rudin threatening legal action leading to the creator's lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that Rudin's letters, in effect, killed the Goodman production because "both Prince and the Goodman notified Sondheim and Weidman that they [were therefore] unwilling to go forward with the scheduled production." The writers asked the court for at least $5 million in economic-loss damages, including loss of profits if the production were to not go forward. They also saught at least $5 million in punitive damages and registered an injunction against Rudin to keep him from blocking the production.

Scott Rudin  
The suit also asked the court to "terminate defendant Rudin's intentional, malicious and wrongful interference" including Rudin's "cease and desist" letters "claiming to have an exclusive right to exploit the work in a theatrical presentation." The author's claimed that exclusive rights would have had to have been given in writing and that "no such writing exists." They went on to suggest that Rudin's "tortuous actions" interfered with their scheduled Goodman production and that, as a result, "no other reputable producer will invest in or otherwise develop and exploit the work."

On December 4, 2001, State Supreme Court Justice Ira Gammerman granted a request for a preliminary injunction in favor of Sondheim and Weidman ordering producer Scott Rudin to cease claiming exclusive rights to Gold! their theatrical work in progress.

Rudin had claimed ownership of the musicals rights stating that the authors failed to deliver a completed script on schedule. Sondheim and Weidman filed a $10 million suit against Rudin in New York State Supreme Court on November 30, 2001. They argued that neither Rudin, nor his company RudinPlay, Inc., had taken the proper contractual actions to obtain the production's rights.

On December 5, Rudin countersued, citing fraud and breach of contract, seeking nearly $8 million in damages. The parties began discussing a settlement soon after.

With the legal battle now over, anticipation continues as the fate of Gold! remains unknown, though negotiations are underway once again to bring the show to the Goodman next season.

How Did They Get Here From There?

Sondheim had worked on the concept of a Mizner musical over forty years ago. In the 1950's, he began work on a musical based on the book "The Legendary Mizners" in which he envisioned one of the musical's characters a guitar playing balladeer. He soon abandoned work on this show, though he got his guitar playing balladeer in Assassins.

Irving Berlin also toyed with a Mizner musical. Titles considered included "Sentimental Guy", "The Mizner Story," and "Wise Guy." Four songs written or intended for this work were recorded on Unsung Irving Berlin.

Stephen Banfield's Sondheim's Broadway Musicals reports that Sondheim's plans for a musical about the Mizner brothers was discussed with Oscar Hammerstein as early as 1953 and remained active until after 1956 "when David Merrick, for purposes of comparison, sent Sondheim a script by Sam Behrman of Irving Berlin's unproduced musical."

This time around, Sondheim and Weidman were commissioned by the Kennedy Center to write Wise Guys. They centered the show around the life of Wilson and Addison Mizner which paralelled the life of vaudeville from its rise in the 1880's to its death in the 1930's. According to Sondheim, the first act will be very episodic with many short scenes, whereas the second act will be more linear.

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