Entertainment » Theatre

Was Longtime 'Chicago' Actor Bullied Prior to Suicide?

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Jul 11, 2018

Jeffrey Loeffelholz, an actor who served the long-running Broadway production of "Chicago" for more than two decades in a standby capacity, died by his own hand on June 29. Associates of the actor allege that Loeffelholz committed suicide a week after being bullied during a rehearsal by the production's director and music director, according to LGBTQ news site Towelroad. As proof of the claim, they point to notes the actor made following the rehearsal in question.

Page Six reports that the show's producers, Fran and Barry Weissler, addressed the show's cast at a meeting and expressed "deep sadness about the tragedy." The producers also hired a lawyer named Judd Burstein to investigate the claims about a rehearsal in which Loeffelholz was humiliated during a June 22 rehearsal.

Burstein told the publication that he had let the production's cast know he "wanted to speak to everyone who had knowledge of what occurred with respect to Mr. Loeffelholz's death," Page Six reported.

One version of events has already been publicized by the members of a group called Justice for Jeffrey, which claims that the actor was subjected to humiliation as a way of squeezing him out of the production without having to buy out his contract. Justice for Jeffrey claims that they have notes the actor himself jotted down following the alleged episode of humiliation, and the group has posted content from those notes at their blog.

Among other allegations, the purportedly Loeffelholz-written notes say that the actor was harassed and insulted by both the director, Walter Bobbie, and the music director, Leslie Stifelman; that he was required to sing the same song multiple times, being subjected to criticism with each repetition; and that at least one fellow cast member refused to support him in the face of the treatment he allegedly suffered.

The group posted screenshots of a text exchange that they say took place between the actor and a friend directly following the rehearsal in question. "Water was Brutal and I fell like it was a set up directed toward me personally!" one text, purportedly written by Loeffelholz, reads.

Justice for Jeffrey has also posted accounts of other alleged instances of bullying endured by "Chicago" cast members. An actress named Jill Nicklaus was quoted on the blog as saying, "I too was viciously bullied and humiliated by Leslie Stifelman for years during my time at 'Chicago.' "

Nicklaus had served the production as an understudy for the character Roxie Hart, among other roles.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook