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Actor sues ‘Hairspray’ producers for $1.5 mil

A former actor in the Tony-winning Broadway musical “Hairspray” has sued the show’s producers for $1.5 million, claiming they wrongfully fired him after he had surgery on a knee he injured during a performance.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A former actor in the Tony-winning Broadway musical “Hairspray” has sued the show’s producers for $1.5 million, claiming they wrongfully fired him after he had surgery on a knee he injured during a performance.

Joel Vig, 54, who played the roles of the Principal, Mr. Spritzer, Mr. Pinky, the Policeman and the Flasher, claimed he worked for about six months in 2004 while hurt, at the stage manager’s request.

But after surgery, according to court papers, his job was gone and he was barred from entering the Neil Simon Theatre, where “Hairspray,” based on John Waters’ 1988 movie of the same name, has had more than 2,000 performances.

A “Hairspray” spokesman, Don Summa, issued a statement saying the show’s managers were unaware of the lawsuit. The actor’s claims “were fully litigated in an arbitration brought by his union, in which Mr. Vig’s allegations were summarily rejected by the arbitrator,” he said.

Vig’s lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court, said he tore cartilage in his left knee during the Wednesday matinee on Feb. 11, 2004. A doctor recommended surgery two months later, but at the stage manager’s request, Vig worked until mid-August 2004, court papers say.

He had surgery Aug. 18 of that year, and notified show managers that he would return Nov. 16, 2004, “ready, willing and able to resume his position.”

Vig’s lawsuit says that when he went to the theater Nov. 16, the theater manager said he had been told “he was not to allow the plaintiff (Vig) into the theater to resume his duties.”

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Vig’s lawsuit says he has lost at least $450,000 in salary and benefits since he was fired.

His lawsuit names only the New York Hairspray Co. LP as the defendant, and it seeks compensatory damages of $500,000 and punitive damages of $1 million.

Hairspray, set in 1962 among teens in Baltimore, won eight Tony awards. In July, a second movie version was released, starring John Travolta.