Britain's Musicians' Union is up in a flap over a West End theater production which will play its merry tune via backing tape.

The MU is vowing to stand its ground over the Spanish show, "Peter Pan El Musical," which will open its four-week stint tonight at the Garrick Theatre without a live band.

The Union argues that, under an existing pact with the Society of London Theatre, venues and production companies have an obligation to employ live musicians where performances are staged.

"We have an agreement in the West End which champions musicians in musicals," Dave Webster, MU senior regional organizer, tells Billboard.biz. "If a member of the public bought a ticket to a West End musical which featured a band, but all the performance action on stage was done to film, how would that be?"

The London-based union has lodged its objections to the Society, theater owners Nimax Theatres and the U.K. producer/managers of the show Cole Kitchenn, voicing its concerns that a deal was done without due consultation process, and that the outcome is outside the boundaries of the MU's honesty code.

"The Union has always been for live music. And we don't accept this as being the right way of doing business in the way we do business. We're not happy about it," says Webster.

Starting from tonight's opening performance, MU staff will distribute flyers outside the theater and explain to potential visitors that "their ticket price is not giving them the full live experience."

"The public ought to know if they are buying a ticket to a West End musical, they've got to know what they're getting," he adds. "And we want to say, 'you've come into town and done this deal in the way you've done it. And this is the kind of negative publicity you get off the back of it. Please don't do it again'."

As a gesture of goodwill, the producers have hired a musician to perform in the foyer of the theatre before the show and during intermission, and agreed to place signs in the theater explaining to guests that the music would not be live.

"They've been told all along that this was not conceived to be played by live musicians," a Nimax spokesman tells Billboard.biz. "It has never been played by live musicians. If it was, they would have come as part of the unit from Spain. There was never an opportunity for British musicians to work on the show."

The Musicians' Union was established in 1893 and represents more than 32,500 musicians working in all sectors of the industry.

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