Broadway seats are filled with crowds ready to soak up a live performance. But at some theaters, purely live music might not be part of the deal.

The Council for Living Music, a newly formed group of musicians fighting for live sound, has criticized “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” for using a taped soundtrack in lieu of filling chairs in the orchestra pit. In a campaign titled “Save Live Music on Broadway,” the Council, with the American Federation of Musicians union, accuses the musical of hiring fewer musicians to save money.

Since the show started, “Priscilla” has employed nine musicians — the Council argues that 18 is standard — and plays a tape to fill in for a strings section.

“It just seems cheap and wrongheaded. It kind of boggles my mind,” said Marshall Coid, the onstage violin soloist for “Chicago.” “It’s a terrible decision.”

“Priscilla” spokesman Adrian Bryan-Brown said the recorded pieces are “elements in the sound of the ‘Priscilla’ score that cannot be recreated by live performance.”

“It’s not as special if it’s not live,” said Grace Harington, 19, visiting from Saskatchewan and who bought tickets for Thursday night’s performance.

Not alone in the desert

“Priscilla” is not the only musical to perform with the aid of a tape. Tony winner “Contact” was the first show to opt for taped music instead of a live orchestra. “West Side Story” was criticized for using prerecorded music instead of five musicians, who were cut from the production. Other shows, like “La Cage aux Folles,” have chosen to use smaller orchestras instead of an orchestra pit with dozens of performers.


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