‘Little Shop of Horrors’ performers left unpaid by Perth company

Little Shop of Horrors

Performers and musicians who worked on a recent production of Little Shop of Horrors have been left unpaid, despite the show been staged months ago.

The local production which was at The Regal Theatre in late 2021 hired a cast of local performers to bring the much-loved musical to life, they were hired alongside an orchestra and backstage crew.

Despite fulfilling their contractual obligations the cast and crew look like they will be left out of pocket after LEGgroup Pty Ltd announced the company will be put into liquidation.

Scott-Leonard Landers who operated the company has been chased for outstanding payments to performers since the curtain came down on the production in mid November.

The plight of the unpaid performers has caught the attention of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union that represents arts sector. The industry body says the information being given to the unpaid cast and crew is concerning.

For performer Keir Shoosmith the collapse of the company behind the show has left him with unpaid wages of $5,000. His partner Mark Retzlaff, who was also part of the cast, has also been left unpaid.

“It’s just shocking,” Shoosmith told OUTinPerth. “I’m very lucky that I have other income and still perform for other companies.”

Some of the other performers in the show however were not as fortune, and for some of them the income that they had been banking on to get through the the next few months between engagements has evaporated.

Shoosmith joined the production when it was  well into its rehearsal period, Retzlaff had been cast as Seymour, one of the lead roles in the production.

When another actor left the production just 10 days before it’s opening night Shoosmith was an obvious choice as a replacement as he’d already been running lines with his partner, this allowed him to learn vacant part quickly. He was hired as a ‘swing’, a performer who learns several different roles to cover when people are away or ill.

The actor notes that the amount being paid by the company was significantly above the standard rates, but the performers were all assured by the production company that they had the financial capacity pay the amounts contracted.

“It was an insane amount of money that he was offering people,” Shoosmith said “For myself alone it was $5,000, when really I was going to be doing two out of the five shows. But I thought it was legit, it was at The Regal, they’ve been working hard and they’re going to do all the right things.

Shoosmith described the shows technical rehearsals as a nightmare, saying that when cast members asked questions about blocking or safety concerns, they were often yelled at by the creative team, and even as the show opened the backstage team were still rushing to put the show together.

“The set for the finale was still being built at intermission, it was just a shemozzle,” Shoosmith said.

Shoosmith said that after the show closed and the cast and the crew failed to be paid, Landers contacted him and offered a payment plan that would be spread over 10 months. The actor says the company also suggested reclassifying the unpaid contractors as employees.

It is alleged that the company then told  the unpaid performers and crew their first payment would cover the required income tax for the entire 10 months, and as such they would not personally see any money until the second month of the plan.

“I messaged him and said I’ve never signed an employee form, I have my own ABN, do not take tax out that’s my responsibility,” Shoosmith recalled.

The experience of working Little Shop of Horrors and not seeing any payment has taken a toll on many of the cast and crew.

‘It feels like a ripoff,” Shoosmith said.

LEGgroup operate several different organisations. Entertaind was the brand that staged the recent musical, but the company also operates as Australian School of Theatre, Bakkbone, Yeet!x, Chookas Show Manager, and Get to The Show.

Andrew Markey, Industrial Organiser at the MEAA said the situation was of great concern.

“The MEAA are deeply concerned by the recent announcement that production company Entertaind and music school Australian School of Theatre have made the decision to enter liquidation. We have recently confirmed that this will extend to the entire LEGgroup.” Markey said.

The union said it had been pursuing the group on behalf of members since December over non-payment of wages. The MEAA says while many of the cast and crew were offered payment plans, the company immediately defaulted on the agreement.

In a statement posted to social media Scott-Leonard Landers (pictured above) said the musical had only generated just over $9,000 in ticket sales.

“The final settlement from ticket sales was a little over $9,000 – a figure which did not go very far with relation to the show’s, nor the business’, expenses” Landers said.

“The advice I have received advice from our chosen liquidator to date indicates that most, if not all, cast and crew may qualify for the federal Fair Entitlement Guarantee by the company being liquidated – this would see payment towards employees much faster than by me continuing to attempt to trade out of the situation.”

Landers said he would be making a permanent exit from the Perth professional theatre industry, but said people needed to stop “vilifying” him.

“I tried, and failed, and that’s on me. I don’t seek to excuse my actions, but as I make my permanent exit from Perth professional theatre, I do seek the public vilification to stop so we can all get on with our lives,” Landers said.

The MEAA says Landers information to performers regarding the possibility they may be eventually paid by the federal government scheme was concerning.  Due to most of the group’s employees being classed as individual contractors most would probably not be covered by the government’s employee safety net.

The union also said the teachers employed by the school would face a double blow as clients would probably not be getting any refund on their already paid fees, which would severely limit the ability of teachers and students to arrange for continuity of work and learning on an individual basis.

The production ran for four days from 24 – 27 November at the Regal Theatre which has a seating capacity of 1,408 patrons. Tickets to the show were priced between $40 and $70.

A sell out season would have earned the company a potential revenue of hundreds of thousands, but with just a few tickets sold, the revenue generated wouldn’t even have covered the wages of a handful of the performers.

OUTinPerth contacted Scott-Leonard Landers who declined to comment. 

Graeme Watson

You can support our work by subscribing to our Patreon
or contributing to our GoFundMe campaign.



Tags: , ,