*There’s a contingent of angry parents in Texas who have a bone to pick with “American Idol” contestant Todrick Hall and his appearance in the top 24.
The singer from Arlington, TX had been staging small productions of “Oz, The Musical” around the state, using nonprofessional actors for lead roles and casting local children as munchkins and flying monkeys in “a contemporary twist on the classic story, with all new music.” [Watch video below.]
But, one of these productions turned out to be a “financial disaster,” according to the financier, Dallas businessman Greg Money. As a result, parents of kids who auditioned were never refunded the performance fees they paid in advance.
In August 2008, Money agreed to finance a production of “Oz” in Lubbock, Texas, that used a professional cast for the lead roles, according to the Associated Press. Plans moved ahead to take the show on a national tour and Money said he tried to line up new backers. Several commitments fell through, however, and the show ended abruptly.
Meanwhile, in several cities, auditions had already been held and children were looking forward to performing on stage in a real musical. Many parents had paid a $50 performance fee that was never returned.
In Lakeland, Fla., Jennifer Davis, who owns the Art in Motion Academy of Dance, said she was not even informed the show had been canceled. She found out when she opened the studio for a planned rehearsal and no one from “Oz” showed up.
“I don’t believe (Hall) came to my studio knowing that the musical was going to go down and they would steal everyone’s money, but it happened,” she told the AP. “He could have at least called — explained what was going on.” (Story continues below the video.)
Money said the financial snafu was all his fault, not Hall’s. He said Hall tried to make amends to the disappointed children by putting together a smaller, less expensive show, but even that lost money.
In the end, Money said, he couldn’t afford to keep bankrolling the production and no one else stepped up to take his place. “People don’t understand, there’s no devious plan to take these people’s $50 and not deliver a show,” he said. “I simply cannot afford to put any more money into that production.”
Diana Messner, of Pittsburgh, paid $100 to have two children participate in a production that was supposed to take place there in September. She got in touch with Hall through Facebook, even talking to him on the phone, but was not satisfied with his explanation.
“He claims no responsibility,” she said, adding Hall told her there were at least 1,000 children who lost their performance fees.
On July 10, Hall also sent Messner an e-mail in which he said he was worried the project was going to “jeopardize my reputation.”
“I will assure you though that I’m doing everything in my power to return the money myself, even though as director it is not my direct responsibility to pay back this debt,” he wrote.
Davis, the studio owner in Lakeland, Fla., said she hasn’t been watching “American Idol” but some of the parents have kept her up on Hall’s progress. “I just don’t think that it’s fair if he ends up being the next ‘American Idol,'” she said.