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Musicians reach tentative agreement with producers

The strike prompted picket lines on Broadway.
The strike prompted picket lines on Broadway.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Broadway musicians reached a tentative contract agreement with producers Tuesday, ending a four-day strike that shut down 18 musicals.

The two sides arrived at a settlement after Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged them to negotiate through the night.

"Broadway is no longer dark," he said at a news conference Tuesday morning. "This is great for the city, great for the people that work in the theater. It is great for those that work in related industries. And most importantly it's great for the 8 million people that live in New York and all the tens of millions that come to visit us every year."

The strike by the 325 Broadway musicians has cost Broadway producers at least $5 million, according to industry experts. Bloomberg said it has caused further economic difficulty on a city still coping with the aftereffects of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and various other financial constraints.

A central point of contention involved the minimum number of musicians to be used in musicals at large Broadway theaters.

Currently, minimums at those theaters range from 24 to 26. The producers wanted to drop that figure to 15. The musicians balked.

Under the new contract, large Broadway theaters will have a minimum of 18 to 19 musicians, said Bill Moriarty, president of the Federation of Musicians' local chapter.

The agreement lasts four years, but the minimum number of musicians will stay in place for 10 years, he said.

Moriarty said he expects the union membership to ratify the agreement.

Some on the producers' side had argued that modern technology allows for fewer musicians.

"Technology doesn't always win," Moriarty said, "and it didn't win this time. And while we have made some reductions in the house minimums, we have preserved live Broadway and we continue to have the largest staff minimums in the world."

Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theaters and Producers, praised the settlement as well, and added, "This was an extremely difficult negotiation lasting over many meetings since the end of January. Neither side got everything it wanted. Neither side got through this without making significant compromises."

Frank Macchiarola, president of St. Francis College in Brooklyn, stepped in as mediator Monday.

Both sides praised him for helping reach a solution.

Bloomberg addressed both sides at a meeting at 9 p.m. Monday, and then returned at 3 a.m. to find them "hard at work," he said.

The Actors' Equity Association and Stagehands' union Local 1 honored the musicians' strike.

Moriarty thanked them for their support, and happily announced that curtains would rise Tuesday evening at every Broadway show.

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