The producers of "Angels in America," "Stomp," and "Smokey Joe's Cafe" want to create a 60-minute, $25-a-ticket show to bring out-of-towners to Broadway at reduced rates.
Opponents argue that "Spirit of Broadway" is not a real Broadway show, and as such cannot be performed at the Lyceum Theater.
Under the plan, "Spirit of Broadway" would be part of the Broadway Hall of Fame, with a backstage tour and memorabilia. It would provide steady business for the Lyceum, a 928-seat building that is often dark.
The problem, according to the Lyceum's owner, is that "Spirit of Broadway" is not a legitimate Broadway production.
Lee Silver, Shubert Organization spokesman, said Wednesday the dispute is strictly about the deal made with city officials when his group obtained the air rights to the theater. Under that covenant, "legitimate theater, dramas and plays" can inhabit the Lyceum.
"Spirit of Broadway" doesn't qualify, he said.
"It would be played over and over again, 12 performances a day," Silver said. "The legitimate theater is eight performances a week, with a script."
The dispute may not be that simple. Although Shubert owns the Lyceum, the German media giant Bertelsmann A.G. rents the theater and has an option to buy it. Union representatives, citing a potential 50 new jobs, are opposing Shubert. And the city will likely become involved since the theater is landmarked.
"It's a theater that ... gets very little use," said William Moriarty, head of Local 802 of the American Federation of Music. "This looks suspiciously like a real estate problem, not a theater problem."
The three producers, who have already signed a tentative deal with Bertelsmann, have raised about half of the $22 million needed to launch the project.