A formal inquiry has been launched into the suicide of a “Chicago” cast member after his friends raised concerns that directors of the show bullied him, PageSix reports.
Jeff Loeffelholz, a standby member of the Broadway musical cast for 22 years, killed himself last month.
His friends have since alleged that show director Walter Bobbie and musical director Leslie Stifelman wanted Loeffelholz out of the musical, and because they couldn’t fire him under his contract, they were intentionally harsh and hostile toward him.
Loeffelholz’s supporters say on June 22, he was wrung through a punishing rehearsal in an effort to get him to quit, in which the directors had him repeatedly sing the same song and then ridiculed him.
“You always do it wrong,” one of the directors is accused of saying.
The group posted that account online using notes that Loeffelholz reportedly wrote after the rehearsal. He died one week later.
In light of the accusations, “Chicago” producers have hired a lawyer to investigate, according to PageSix.
The attorney, Judd Burstein, said Loeffelholz’s death “devastated” the show’s management.
“The producers are taking this matter very seriously, and are fully committed to finding out exactly what transpired,” Burstein said in a statement. “To that end, I have been retained to conduct an exhaustive investigation on an expedited basis.”
One expert with inside knowledge of how Broadway works told the media outlet that mistreatment of stage performers is commonplace in the industry.
“No one can directly blame anyone for something like suicide, but this treatment is kind of like an old-school Broadway scenario where there seems to be a disposable amount of talent that allows people to treat people like this,” the source told PageSix. “When you’re loyal to a show like that, it’s not celebrated. It can actually make you unhireable. It’s a strange thing.”
[Feature Photo: Jeff Loeffelholz/Justice for Jeff]