CHERRY HILL – A few more months before the opening, but many here want to lower the curtain on the planned musical about the infamous murder, commissioned by the then famous rabbi Fred Neulander.
“This is our story,” said Drew Molotsky, president of the M’kor Shalom Congregation in Cherry Hill, about the assassination of Carol Neulander, the rabbi’s wife, in November 1994.
“It’s about our friends and our community, and it’s very serious for us,” said Molotsky, one of several South Jersey residents who spoke during the show.
The Los Angeles Theater originally described the musical “The Evil Soul in Cherry Hill” as “a true crime story told entirely through song.”
The Geffen Playhouse also said the show, scheduled for June 21 to July 24, was written “with humor and impudence.” But she abandoned that language and made other changes as the backlash grew.
Local critics have argued that no revision can justify the musical because of the deadly beating of Carol Neulander, an entrepreneur, community leader and mother of three.
“Destroying it or using it for entertainment is not something we ever indulge in,” Molotsky said.
Fred Neulander, who founded M’kor Shalom in 1974, was convicted in 2002 for paying two men for the deadly beating of his wife during a staged robbery at the couple’s home. The rabbi wanted his wife dead so he could continue the romance, authorities said.
Now the 80-year-old Neulander is serving a life sentence for murder without parole until June 2030.
A statement from one of Neulander’s children said the family was “doubted and upset” by the planned production.
“We assure you, despite the description, neither that night, nor in the following years, nor that night, nor in the following years, was there anyone who knew and loved Carol,” said Matthew Neulander, now a physician. living in Connecticut. write Friday at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Dozens of South Jersey residents condemn the musical in social media posts.
“There is nothing that could be humorous in this murder – about any murder!” Cheryl Shats Petrucelli of Cherry Hill said in a comment that was liked by more than a dozen people on her Facebook page for Cherry Hill United.
“It’s disgusting and disturbing that someone really wrote this,” she added. “There is absolutely no reason for this on earth!”
“Pure bad taste and operation,” Cherry Hill lawyer David Bros. said in a long series of comments on the same site.
“Whatever it sounds like, I hope it’s a tank,” he said.
In a statement released Monday, Geffen Playhouse argues that the play “does not cause sensation and does not laugh at the tragic murder that took place in Cherry Hill.”
“On the contrary, it is the part that explores how a community moves forward when something horrible and emotional violates their faith,” it said.
But the theater acknowledged that “our description of the play does not convey this, and it has been amended accordingly.”
Among those changes, the theater removed from its website a schedule that originally advertised a show about the death of Carol Neulander, a bakery operator, with a dessert that showed red jam dripping like blood from Jewish pastries.
The website now features only text graphics with show dates and the identification of its playwright, South Jersey-born Matt Shatz and director Mike Donahue.
Shatz could not be reached for comment.
Geffen Playhouse, when announcing plans to show in November 2021, said the “completely original musical” would describe how “a cohesive Jewish community is going to tell, remember and reflect on the details of what happened in their city and in their city.” .
The announcement noted that the play was developed as part of a program that included “support and guidance from the Geffen Playhouse art team.”
The musical is also a recipient of the New Play Award from the Edgerton Foundation, which will help fund the production.
Jim Walsh covers state security, economic development and other articles for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
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