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Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The story of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, Thrill Me follows two Chicago murderers who kidnapped and killed a young boy in the 1920s. Their motivation? They believed they were 'superhuman', according to the Nietzchean philosophy taught at their university, and that they could commit the perfect crime - and get away with it. Turns out, it's not as simple as that, and the two men were caught pretty quickly, only the intervention of lawyer Clarence Darrow (famous for his work on the Scopes 'Monkey Trial') saving them from the death penalty.

With a two-hander, casting needs to be spot on, and thankfully it is, with former Jersey Boy Jye Frasca skilfully using expression and speech patterns to make his Leopold somewhat innocent and clingy in flashback, but clearly more world-weary in the present day. George Maguire, too, shows off his impressive, clear voice as the cruel, thrill-seeking Loeb. Maguire's portrayal communicates the killer's psychotic, selfish nature well, showing nuance when Loeb's brash confidence cracks at the very last moment.

There's excellent direction from Guy Retallack and musical director and pianist David Keefe, while the evocative lighting from Richard Williamson helps to set the scene and keep the tension flowing. Although the dialogue feels slightly cheesy at its outset, as the relationship between the two men develops and deepens, so does the writing, with some truly funny moments keeping the story full of light and shade. There are some clever songs, such as "A Written Contract", played out to the tapping of a typewriter, the slightly haunting "Nothing Like A Fire" and "I'm Trying to Think", in which Leopold tries to remain calm as he prepares to face the police.

Stephen Dolginoff's musical version of this true story is both sharp and witty, full of strong songs and clever twists, guaranteed to interest and short enough, at only 90 minutes without an interval, to hold your attention throughout.

- Miriam Zendle


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