The Leopold and Loeb story is familiar, not least from Rope which transposed the story from Chicago to London. The main difference with Thrill Me, other than the music obviously, is that there is no attempt to play down the love story between the two murderers and it is told from the point of view of Nathan Leopold. One of the strngths of Stephen Dolginoff's version is that, even though their crimes were repellent, you come to slightly sympathise with Leopold who appears to be a victim of Richard Loeb's Nitzchean fixation until a devastating final twist. How much of this is true and how much is conjecture is impossible to say and it is a shame that there is no postscript telling us of Leopold's fate after prison. The songs are used effectively to propel the compelling story forward, there is superb piano accompaniment from David Keefe and the show is given a tense and taut production by Guy Retallack. On the night I attended the show was being watched by his proud wife Rachel Tucker, taking a night off from Elphaba. It's worth noting that the Charing Cross Theatre is an absolutely perfect venue to showcase new musicals - 300 sears and a good-sized proscenium stage. They need to sort out a dodgy sound system (the rumble of the trains is beyond them) but here is an ideal palce to take a chance on all the new writers who we keep hearing are struggling to be produced. - David Baxter
26 May 11
Well, it did. The true story of a couple of young psychopaths who kill a boy for thrills may not seem promising or appropriate material for a chamber musical, but it actually works – and it tells the story with more psychological depth than Patrick Hamilton’s play ‘Rope’ on the same subject, recently revived at the Almeida.
These two young men started getting their kicks from arson and robbery, but it wasn’t long before they concocted the ultimate crime of murder. The show tells the story as flashback from Leopold’s parole board hearing 34 years after imprisonment; this is a very clever idea. The attraction of Loeb to Leopold is clear from the outset but whether it is reciprocated is ambiguous, which adds to the intrigue of the story. Leopold’s true motivation isn’t revealed until the end.
Writer Stephen Dolginoff handles the psychological complexity very well, with the help of his own excellent score and lyrics. Simply but effectively staged by Guy Retalllack, in close proximity the two actors – Jye Frasca and George Maguire – convey all the manic intensity of their characters and their vocal performances are outstanding; their experience in musicals shows and pays off. Musical Director David Keefe plays the dense score on piano brilliantly.
With so much theatre-going, it’s amazing that I still manage to visit new venues like Tristan Bates Theatre; I think they need a publicist (or a better one, if they have one!) as this excellent show – which has taken a long time to come here after 50 productions in 4 other countries – hasn’t had anywhere as much publicity as it deserves. You have 2.5 more weeks to see what I mean….. - Gareth James
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