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NJ True-Crime Story Becomes Controversial Musical

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Playbill for A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill

“A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill,” a musical about the murder of Cherry Hill’s Carol Neulander, opens in Los Angeles in June. Photo courtesy of Geffen Playhouse

A New Jersey true-crime story is taking center stage at a major regional theater in Los Angeles in June. But before a single note was even sung, the staging of A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill has had as many twists as the crime itself.

Wicked Soul is ostensibly about the 1994 murder of Carol Neulander by two men hired by her husband, a Cherry Hill rabbi. The trial deeply shook the South Jersey Jewish community because of the rabbi’s prominence and his affair with a Philadelphia radio personality leading up to the murder.

Carol Neulander’s children and their temple are not amused by the concept of the play and have forcefully denounced the production—without having seen the show.

Matthew Neulander, one of Carol’s three children who is now a doctor in Connecticut, told the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this year that the family “is saddened and dismayed” by the theater production.

“This play cannot be excused as simply artistic interpretation,” Neulander wrote in an email to the Inquirer. “True art can produce and convey many emotions; it can enlighten and entertain and inspire, bring joy and amazement. At its most progressive, it can startle and question. It should not, however, ever injure, or be created at the expense of others. We assure you, despite the show’s description, there was zero ‘humor and chutzpah’ experienced that night, or in the years that followed, by anyone who knew and loved Carol.

“Anyone who had a role in imagining, creating, producing, or performing this play should have their motives questioned as thoughtless at minimum; cruel and wholly inappropriate might be more accurate.”

Rather than crafting a conventional musical with dialogue and a linear story, New Jersey native and playwright/composer Matt Schatz created a song cycle, with a series of tunes revolving around a theme or idea. In a statement, Schatz said the musical asks “essential questions about what we do when our leaders fall from grace” and investigates how a community gathers to recount and recollect.

If you’re visiting Los Angeles this summer, you can buy tickets online at geffenplayhouse.org. The show runs from June 21-July 24.

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Why this key Jets player is glad a rival cut him

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Jets receiver/returner Braxton Berrios didn’t have to wait long to learn how hard it is to keep a roster spot in the NFL.

Berrios, a 2018 Patriots sixth-round pick, spent his rookie season on injured reserve and New England cut him in 2019 before he ever played a snap.

But the Berrios isn’t bitter about his brief time with a team that is now his biggest rival.

“Really, I feel like I got a PhD in football (in New England),” Berrios said on the “Adam Schefter Podcast. “It didn’t work out for whatever reasons. And looking back it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

The Jets claimed Berrios soon after he was cut and he has found a way to contribute ever since: Berrios has been the backup slot receiver since 2020 and set a career high in catches (46) and receiving yards (431) last year. But his big breakout came on special teams, where he became one of the league’s best returners on the way to a first-team, All-Pro selection.

“I kept going, obviously, and found ways to be productive,” Berrios said. “Obviously, in the return game was the first way. And then I really, really wanted to make sure I was seen as a receiver as well, and really over the last two years I’ve gotten a lot more of those opportunities. Then you marry those opportunities with now being named the first-team All-Pro last year as a kick returner: it’s finally full circle, it’s maybe starting to work out a little bit.”

Berrios admitted that he felt he had his “back up against the wall” on the Patriots’ talented roster. He certainly doesn’t have to worry about the Jets cutting him as he enters his fourth season with the team: Berrios signed a two-year, $12 million earlier this year.

But even if Berrios isn’t mad at the Patriots, there is one thing that should have the Jets extremely motivated when they play their rival this fall: the Jets haven’t won a game against New England since 2015.

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Andy Vasquez may be reached at avasquez@njadvancemedia.com.



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Wildwoods Are Next in Line for Beach Replenishment

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Most New Jersey beach towns should be jealous of Wildwood. The city has the widest beach on the Jersey Shore, stretching 1,500 feet from boardwalk to surf in some places.

But Wildwood has its headaches, too. Some beachgoers complain the sandy expanse requires too long a schlep to the water’s edge. The beach also collects pools of water, which can breed insects and become health hazards, and the sand drifting down from the north tends to clog storm drainage pipes. Plus, there’s all that beach to clean.

Since 2014, Wildwood has gladly allowed the neighboring borough of North Wildwood to borrow truckloads of its sand every winter—including some that clogs those drainage pipes.

[RELATED10 Years After Hurricane Sandy: What’s Next for the Jersey Shore?]

Now the city of Wildwood is poised to sign the state-aid agreement required for a 50-year partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection for beach replenishment and maintenance. North Wildwood has already signed. Once the deal is in place, the Army Corps can proceed with its Wildwoods project, probably starting in fall 2023, pending easements from private property owners at various locations along the beach.

The centerpiece of the project will be a series of dunes totaling 25,000 linear feet (about 4.7 miles) from North Wildwood to Wildwood City and south to Wildwood Crest and Diamond Beach. (Wildwood Crest and Lower Township, which includes Diamond Beach, also have to sign their own state-aid agreements.) To build the dunes, sand will be taken from a substantial swath of Wildwood’s beach all the way south to Wildwood Crest.

North Wildwood has reason to seek the Army Corps’ help; its sand perpetually drifts south each winter, leaving beachfront properties vulnerable. For Wildwood, the Army Corps should be able to solve several problems, explains Carl Groon, a projects coordinator for the city.

For one thing, the width of the beach will be reduced by several hundred feet at some points, meaning shorter walks from boardwalk to water and less beach to clean. Second, grading the beach with a greater slope from the new dunes to the surf, should help eliminate the pooling problem. Finally, in the event of extreme storms, the dunes should mitigate flooding.

Groon says Wildwood’s new dunes will range in height from 14 to 16 feet. They will be built between the city’s five piers, each at a different distance from the boardwalk, depending on existing structures and other factors.

The dunes will create some obstacles for Wildwood spectator activities. “If they shrink our beach, we will have less beach to use for events,” acknowledges Groon. However, he adds, “I think it’s well within our ability to make it all work.”

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Sleepy Hallow Involved In Chair-Throwing Brawl In NJ Restaurant

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