Jeff Loeffelholz, an actor who dedicated the entirety of his 21-year career on Broadway to the long-running revival of Chicago, died June 29 at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. He was 57 years old.
Loeffelholz took his own life after chronicling a June 22 company rehearsal; his notes allege he was intimidated and harassed by music director Leslie Stifelman and director Walter Bobbie. An independent investigation into the events leading to his death is currently underway.
The actor served as the standby for the role of tabloid reporter Mary Sunshine, a vocally-demanding part conceived by Bob Fosse in the 1975 original to be played by a male actor disguised as a woman.
Mary Sunshine's song, "A Little Bit of Good," has become a specialty among a select group of male performers who possess the unique vocal ability to sing in a soprano coloratura range—a skill Loeffelhoz developed while in college at the University of Oklahoma.
He made his Broadway debut with Chicago when the sold-out City Center Encores! staging of Kander and Ebb’s 1975 musical transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre for a 20th anniversary revival in October 1996. He was the last remaining member of the original 1996 opening night cast to still be part of the long-running hit.
Prior to Chicago, Loeffelholz earned acclaim as the soprano half of the cabaret show Dangerous Duets (alongside tenor Michael Tidd). The act featured tunes from Broadway and West End shows performed in their original keys and played such venues as Rose's Turn, 88s, and later, the MGM Grand.
"Mary Sunshine was a dream role," his partner Peter De La Cruz said. Leoffelholz previously performed the role in summer stock. In the mid 1990s he performed “A Little Bit of Good” during a benefit honoring Kander and Ebb, which led to an audition for the Broadway revival.
Cast as the standby for original cast member David Sabella, Leoffelholz was called upon to go on as Mary Sunshine over 150 times in the revival’s first year on Broadway. For over two decades Leoffelholz served as standby for the role, ready to go on at a moment's notice and often hanging backstage with the cast.
"Chicago was his family," De La Cruz said. "He never dreamed it would be such a long run."
Jeffrey Francis Loeffelholz was born January 26, 1961, in Norman, Oklahoma. He is survived by his partner, Peter De La Cruz, and members of his family in Oklahoma.
A memorial celebrating his life and career will be held Tuesday, August 7 at St. Malachy's, The Actors' Chapel.