Attorney investigating ‘Chicago’ cast death thinks insiders are trying to stop him
The attorney hired to investigate the death of a member of the “Chicago” cast has accused theater insiders of “circling the wagons” to prevent him from getting to the truth.
Judd Burstein was retained by the show’s producers to conduct an independent probe after friends of Jeff Loeffelholz claimed that he committed suicide last month because he was bullied by the show’s directors.
But just a week later Burstein says he has “been utterly stymied in my investigation” by Broadway unions including Actors’ Equity and Local 802, which he says are “in a position to provide me information about the events which transpired during the week before Mr. Loeffelholz’s last rehearsal and suicide.”
In a statement sent to Page Six, he claimed that Equity was resisting because “it appears that, days before his death, Mr. Loeffelholz complained to [the union] about the way he was treated at his final rehearsal, and the union took no action.”
In emails Burstein provided to us, an attorney representing Equity writes to Burstein, “once I conclude my investigation and share the results with the union, it will decide the extent to which it wants to provide any information to you and your clients and the appropriate conditions for doing to.”
Burstein claims that the union is preventing him from interviewing its members, and that he offered to allow representatives to attend any interviews and to allow the union to “see my recap of interviews with Actors Equity members in advance of my final report.”
In his statement, Burstein called Equity’s behavior “particularly egregious because Mr. Loeffelholz was one of its members.”
He claims that his requests for help were “rebuffed” and that “after one Equity member affiliated with ‘Chicago’… asked to meet with me, they canceled their appointment after speaking with their union counsel.”
But Equity shot back, with its executive director, Mary McColl, telling Page Six, “Equity has taken appropriate action to get to the bottom of the tragic circumstances surrounding Jeff Loeffelholz’s death. It has retained an experienced former federal prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation. Once that investigation is completed, the findings will be shared with the union and cast members.”
She added that NAMCO, the company behind “Chicago,” had hired for its investigation “an attorney [Burstein] who previously has represented it in other matters, which raises serious concerns with the independence of his investigation. Once Equity’s investigation is concluded, Equity will decide what steps to take with NAMCO.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Local 802 told us, “Local 802 takes the health, safety and well-being of everyone in the community very seriously. We do not feel it is appropriate to comment publicly while an investigation is ongoing. However, we have informed members of the Broadway musician community that speaking with investigators is voluntary and that we support their right to do so.”
Earlier this month, pals of Loeffelholz — who had been a member of the cast for 22 years — started a campaign called Justice for Jeff, claiming that some of the production’s senior staff wanted Loeffelholz out of the long-running production but that his contract wouldn’t allow them to fire him.
The group claims that the brass put Loeffelholz, a standby member of the cast, through a tortuous rehearsal on June 22 in an attempt to get him to quit the show, forcing him to sing the same song over and over and telling him, “You always do it wrong.”
He died on June 29.
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