Tuesday, 12 April 2005

Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story, April 12, 2005

 Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story 
Book, Lyrics and Music by Stephen Dolginoff
Theatreworks, 14a Acland St. St. Kilda, April 12 to 23, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The story of Leopold and Loeb, two teenage killers, shocked America in 1924 and entered US crime history.

American writer of musicals, Stephen Dolginoff, transforms this tale of murder, homosexuality, obsession and thrill seeking into a fascinating and disturbing musical for two men.

Two wealthy, educated and intelligent 19 year olds, Richard Loeb (Adrian Corbett) and Nathan Leopold (Nathan Butler) kidnapped and murdered a 14 year old boy in Chicago. They were caught and imprisoned for life plus 99 years.

Most of the details of the story are cleverly woven into the lyrics of the 15 songs. The rest is in the narration provided by Nathan Leopold, 35 years after the crime, as he addresses the Parole Board.

Butler and Corbett are appropriately cast as the two boys who seem such unlikely candidates for the horror they perpetrate.

This is an unusual story for a musical but it is strangely effective and affecting. It is not harrowing to watch but there are some distressing revelations in the story.

Dolginoff's songs draw on classic musical form and the music underscores the dialogue.

Pianist, Vicki Jacobs, the only musician on stage, brings passion and skill to the score.

 One drawback with the music is that the songs sound too much alike with repetitive tunes and little variety in style

However, the songs are well sung by Corbett and Butler who both have clear, bright voices that blend tunefully in their duets, particularly in the impassioned My Glasses/Just Lay Low.

The staging is sparse with only a couple of boxes and a single chair on stage. Director, Martin Croft, keeps the action simple and the focus on the characters, relationships and songs.

Cunning lighting by Katelyn B., (OK) closes the cavernous space to create discrete and intimate locations for the scenes.

Leopold and Loeb were lovers at High School who reunited before beginning Law School. Loeb was bisexual and charming. He manipulated the lovelorn Leopold to be his accomplice in a crime spree, seducing Leopold into a sexual contract written in blood.

Loeb became obsessed with Nietsche and believed that he and Leopold were superior men who could outwit anyone. He was wrong.  

This volatile fusion of compulsions led the pair to the kidnap and murder.

The show is diverting and capably performed with a very satisfying twist at the end.

By Kate Herbert

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