Two weeks ago, I tried to brighten up your Sunday by making fun of the quick flop of the Steve Wyrick show at the Las Vegas Hilton and how both parties should have known better than to try it.
Maybe you laughed. Maybe you went back to your coffee and the story about the shoeshine guy. But hey, we strive to amuse.
Then I heard from the cast. They’re not laughing. They still hadn’t been paid.
They are young people, some struggling to make rent, and still confused about their options for recourse more than two weeks later.
“Who the hell protects our rights? This isn’t a Third World country,” one said.
Two dancers and six wranglers of the illusions (nicknamed “magi”) worked as independent contractors, alongside union stagehands. “I know he had to pay for them, and we were making one-fourth of what they were,” one said.
Four cast members, all worried about using their names, met to tell how they kept going deeper into the hole as the show did. First, they agreed to half-pay for rehearsals, which were supposed to be six hours but dragged into 12-hour ordeals. For some, that worked out to about $4 per hour.
“I don’t care if this is show business or McDonalds. At least they pay minimum wage,” a dancer noted.
The day they were to receive their first full paycheck also was a show day with actual warm bodies waiting for the curtain to go up. Wyrick met with the cast and told them his investor had pulled out. He said it was up to the cast to perform or not. They agreed to go on with promissory notes from stage manager Terrence Williams.
A few days later, the cast collectively showed up at the Hilton to find the props being loaded out.
Some of the cast are sympathetic to Wyrick, feeling he is caught in the middle. For some, there was a trust level from Wyrick’s theater at Planet Hollywood. It eventually went bankrupt, but his cast there never missed a paycheck.
At the Hilton, Wyrick was trying to run a larger show with a smaller crew. Inefficient rehearsals ran stagehand costs into overtime before it opened. Dancers might be a show’s cheapest expense for the proportionate impact on lives, but this cast shared the unpaid fate of those in the Hilton’s “Triumph” show before it.
Granted, they are young and were never going to get rich off this venture. But they figured it would be steady, solid income if the show took off.
The Nevada Department of Business & Industry says that if the cast indeed fits the definition of independent contractor, they cannot file a wage claim with the state or for unemployment. Their only recourse is a lawsuit.
And in court, the performers do understand where they fall in line. “Pretty much we’re screwed,” one said.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.