Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story is an 80 minute chamber musical about the 1924 ‘crime of the century’, the murder of 14 year old Robert Franks by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.
The musical begins and ends in Nathan Leopold’s fifth parole board meeting. The story of the supposed ‘perfect crime’ is told through flashback. Nathan reveals details about the killing in order to secure his release from prison after 35 years.
Stephen Dolginoff, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, has created an obsessive, engaging tale with a solid score. Particularly successful were the close harmonies of the duets, which reinforced the suffocating closeness of Leopold and Loeb. However, a few times the lyrics were clunky and it was hard not to roll one’s eyes at this cliché, and inevitable rhyme with ‘hurt’: ‘you make me feel like dirt’.
Dolginoff depicts Nathan as being madly in love with sociopathic Richard Loeb. Needy Nathan, brilliantly played by the cherubic faced Guy Woolf, is besotted and sexually obsessed with Richard and goes to extreme measures to keep his lover for ‘Life Plus 99 years’ (as he sings in the last song). Meanwhile, Sebastian Hill as Richard plays the perfect foil to Nathan: shifty, sociopathic and impassioned – completely terrifying. ‘There’s nothing like a warm romantic fire’ sings psycho Richard after an act of arson on the local warehouse. Both Woolf and Hill offer convincing American accents and have strong, reliable singing voices. The show is well cast by Gordon Griffin. Although a two hander, Tom Turner on Piano is present on stage throughout and wearing 1920s costume, becomes a third character in the musical.
The Jermyn Street Theatre is a fantastic theatre space, offering great sight lines and an impressive lighting rig. Paul Glaser, the director, takes advantage of this and despite minimal staging creates a credible performance through the use of nuanced lighting by Steve Lowe, several strong visual props and compelling theatrical performances by the two leads. Kim Mackay’s costumes are rich and detailed evoking the wealth and high social standing of Leopold and Loeb. And, I won’t spoil it, but full marks to Mackay for the nifty costume trick at the beginning.
Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story is a dark tale of homosexual obsession, sociopathic behaviour and murder; it ain’t ‘Matilda’. But, it’s a fascinating musical portrait of two notorious characters, well written and deftly performed.
Review by Laura-Jane Foley
Mon, 11th – Sat, 16th January
Raphael Productions in association with Jermyn Street Theatre presents GUY WOOLF and SEBASTIAN HILL
in THRILL ME The Leopold & Loeb story A Musical Thriller by STEPHEN DOLGINOFF. Directed by PAUL GLASER
THRILL ME, the sensational, multi award winning musical thriller by Stephen Dolginoff about Leopold and Loeb,
the genius rich kid killers, who committed the crime of the century… just for the thrill of it?
Nathan – Guy Woolf
Richard – Sebastian Hill
Piano – Tom Turner
Approx running time 90 minutes. No interval