Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story

Thrill Me is based on the real-life story of wealthy law students Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, who killed a school friend to test themselves at living life beyond limits as Nietzschean Übermensch and, basically, for kicks. Stephen Dolginoff’s dark psychological drama follows the double-crossing of the jailed pair as each tries to make a deal with the police.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.

Reviews by Johnny Fox

The Blurb

How far would you go in the name of obsession? The Lindbergh Kidnapping... The O.J. Simpson Case... The Great Train Robbery... so many crimes have been labelled the crime of the 20th Century. Not one however engaged the world as much as the case of Leopold and Loeb - self- confessed ‘Thrill Killers’. Stephen Dolginoff’s multi-award winning musical Thrill Me - The Leopold & Loeb Story - examines the relationship between Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb - both wealthy, normal and intelligent Chicago students, about to commence training to become lawyers. The show begins at Leopold’s 1958 parole board hearing. Through a series of flashbacks we are taken on a journey of two young men, one who believed he was above the law, obsessed and fuelled by the philosophy of Nietzsche to the point he believed he was a ‘Superman’ beyond good and evil. The other - a loner - became a willing accomplice, empowering Loeb in his misdemeanours. His reward - Richard’s time, attention and conditional love! Together, they both believed they had perpetrated the perfect crime, or was one more certain than the other? Thrill Me is directed by Guy Retallack who works regularly all over the UK, as well as Germany, Greece, and the USA. Guy has directed in the West End, at many of London's most prestigious venues and in various regional theatres. Recent credits include Drowning on Dry Land (Jermyn Street), Liberty (Shakespeare Globe), Future Me (Latchmere 505).