While the source material of Thrill Me is fascinating, I feel the show could do with a couple of upbeat songs
The homoerotic relationship between Leopold and Loeb is explored in depth. While making the Hitchcock Leopold and Loeb-inspired movie Rope, the actor Farley Granger wondered how different its depiction of male lovers would have been without censorship. Here it is. Jye Frasca graduates from serial understudy to leading man as a convincingly lovestruck Nathan Leopold willing to do anything to win the approval of his best friend. His transition from sidekick to controlling personality is one of the most effective elements in the piece. To be the object of such unfiltered adoration, Richard Loeb needs to be charismatically irresistible, a gorgeous gay Gatsby at the height of the Jazz Age, but for me George Maguire didn't quite pull that off, although he did capture the mounting insecurity and false bravado of the teenage chancer with absolute credibility.
Both sing exceptionally well, particularly Frasca. Since they're both experienced hoofers it's a pity the two-handed structure doesn't allow them a production number. It's also a pity the deadly repetitive score doesn't give them a chance to show off their song stylings either. Dolginoff misses a trick in not drawing inspiration from the music of the twenties, instead staying rooted in the vamp-till-readiness of stereotypical modern musical theatre recitative.
Chicago still holds court at the Cambridge Theatre London. It's quite a coincidence that another musical featuring a jailed pair of killers is running at the other end of the street. While the source material of Thrill Me is fascinating, I feel the show could do with a couple of upbeat songs, or livening with satire. Chicago's taken all its hits, razzle-dazzle and comedy.
The fictitious Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart celebrate murder as vaudeville art form and comeuppance for faithless lovers, but Leopold and Loeb's murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks was horrific. They hacked at him with a chisel in the back seat of a rental car, stashed his body in a drain, and went out to dinner. Not even Roxie or Velma could tap their way out of that one.