Former Sugababe Jade Ewen is suing Walt Disney for over £200,000.
She claims she damaged her vocal cords trying to be heard over her “very loud” co-star while playing Princess Jasmine in the West End musical Aladdin.
Miss Ewen, 34, was playing the female lead in the popular musical, which is based on Walt Disney’s hit 1992 film, when she claims she suffered serious vocal damage trying to sound loud during ‘A Whole New World’ and other duets to sing.
Jade claimed that her co-star Matthew Croke had trouble harmonizing when he could hear other voices and so sang “very loudly”, drowning out Miss Ewen and forcing her to also sing in a dangerously raised voice.
The singer, a former Eurovision star and member of girl group Sugababes, says the damage caused by the strain of hearing herself meant she had to spend her days off in silence to get her voice for her performances rescue.
She was later diagnosed with vocal cord lesions and a vascular polyp, and although treatment resolved the issues, she claims she continues to suffer from career-damaging anxiety.
She is now suing The Walt Disney Company Ltd for more than £200,000 in compensation in Central London County Court, claiming the breach led to her missing out on lucrative West End job offers.
The American media giant denies liability and will fight Miss Ewen’s claims for damages in a five-day trial, noting that Mr Croke was an “experienced and accomplished” stage performer.
According to court documents, Miss Ewen had been cast as “Princess Jasmine” in the popular musical at the Prince Edward Theater on Old Compton Street since April 2016.
The singer, originally from Plaistow in east London, had no problems initially and claims the problems only started when the original male lead was replaced by West End star Matthew Croke in June 2017.
Her attorney, Tom Nossiter, says the problems arose while they were singing face-to-face duets — “A Million Miles Away” and “A Whole New World” — with their co-star near them.
“Matthew Croke found it difficult to maintain harmony when he could hear someone else singing,” says the attorney. “To compensate, he sang very loudly during the duets so he couldn’t hear the plaintiff’s voice.
“Mr Croke was 6 feet 1 inches tall compared to the plaintiff’s height of 5 feet 2 inches. This meant that Mr. Croke’s mouth was positioned approximately level with the plaintiff’s forehead microphone when he sang the duets with her.
“Due to Mr Croke’s very loud singing voice and his position in relation to Plaintiff’s microphone, his voice was picked up by Plaintiff’s microphone during the duets.
“This resulted in the plaintiff’s voice being ‘drowned out’ so that she could not hear herself when she sang at a volume that was comfortable for her.
“The plaintiff was repeatedly forced to sing louder and with greater force than was comfortable and/or safe for her during eight performances per week for a period of approximately 18 months.
“Their vocal cords were strained, increasing the risk of damage to their vocal cords.
“Also, there was kind of a vicious cycle: the louder she sang, the louder Matthew Croke sang about her.”
The solicitor claimed Miss Ewen complained and drowned out the sound mixing on stage on “many” occasions, but was told to “sing louder”.
“From around March 2018, the plaintiff began experiencing symptoms of recurring hoarseness, discomfort and imbalance in her singing voice,” he says.
“In order to perform satisfactorily on the shows, she was forced to take breaks from speaking and singing and spend her days off in total silence.
“After that, she experienced an acute episode while singing when she felt a ‘pop’ and the quality of her voice then became ‘cracking’ or ‘roasting’ and she couldn’t reach her upper register.”
She attempted to continue performing with vocal warm-ups and the use of a nebulizer, but sought medical treatment in January 2019 and did not appear on the show again.
“The damage was successfully treated with two surgical procedures in 2019 and the prognosis is good as long as the plaintiff maintains good vocal hygiene and avoids returning to work in unhealthy acoustic environments,” her attorney continued.
“She also suffered from anxiety and panic symptoms related to her voice and her career, which have subsided since receiving successful treatment.
“She has suffered a psychological reaction as she is afraid to perform in musical theater roles due to the above injuries.
“This has resulted in her turning down offers for lucrative musical theater contracts, resulting in significant revenue shortfalls.”
Miss Ewen’s attorneys allege that Disney acted negligently by failing to adequately assess the risk and ensure the sound system was suitable.
Her superiors also did not respond to her complaints and should have provided in-ear monitors so that she could hear her own voice, it is said.
In Disney’s defense of the claim, attorney Jonathan Bellamy says it’s normal in the West End for artists not to have in-ear monitors to hear their voices.
Her co-star was also an “experienced and accomplished performer,” and it’s disputed that he “couldn’t blend or mix his voice with the applicant’s and/or hold a harmony unless he could just hear his voice.” “.
The company also denies that Miss Ewen was forced to sing out loud because she was being drowned out, noting that she was also aware of the “demanding schedule” of eight shows a week.
“The defendant alleges that the vocal demands placed on the plaintiff during the performance of her role as ‘Princess Jasmine’ … and the schedule of performances were typical of the demands placed on leading performers in West End musical theatre,” he says.
“It is denied that at any time during the filing period, Plaintiff complained or warned Defendant, if it did, that an ‘effort of her vote’ was being exercised.
“It is alleged that the plaintiff did not inform or warn the defendant during the period of the complaint that if she did, she had the alleged symptoms or refrained from speaking or singing when not in the performance was in the theatre.
“Defendant denies any negligence or breach of statutory duty.
“The defendant denies that any proven negligence or breach of a statutory duty caused the condition of the plaintiff’s voice and/or an injury to her vocal cords and/or her mental health and/or her ability to sing the role of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin or contributed to it in the West End musical theatre.”
Miss Ewen originally made her name by placing fifth in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, singing the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Diane Warren-penned song It’s My Time.
She replaced Keisha Buchanan in the group Sugababes in September 2009 and achieved two UK Top 10 singles and a Top 15 album before the group broke up in 2011.
She made her West End debut in 2015 before playing Princess Jasmine in 2016 as part of the original cast of Disney’s Aladdin production.
Her case reached the court for a pre-trial hearing on attorneys’ bills for the case, which are expected to be decided at a later date by Judge David Saunders in a week-long trial.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/sugababe-star-sues-disney-200k-26383621 Sugababe is suing Disney for £200,000 over alleged vocal damage from singing