fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,

Last Week's Entertainment - Part 2: Thrill Me

My other entertainment event last week was seeing Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story performed by The Elden Street Players on Thursday night. This is a somewhat unlikely subject for a musical, but I saw the listing on Goldstar and figured it was worth a shot since it was: a) cheap and b) reasonably nearby. Besides, I love Sondheim's Assassins which is at least as unlikely.

About all I knew about the story is what everyone knows - two rich college students in 1920's Chicago decided to murder a kid for thrills. The musical begins at Leopold's parole hearing in 1958 as he explains what happened. There are just two performers on stage, plus a few others doing voiceovers as the parole board. The short version told here is that Richard Loeb was a classic sociopathic thrill seeker, while Nathan Leopold was in love with Loeb. Richard has been reading Nietzsche and persuades Nathan that they are Supermen, exempt from normal laws. They make a written contract that says, essentially, Nathan will do whatever crimes Richard asks him to, in exchange for sex. So they move on from crime to crime - arson and robbery - to murder. Richard wants to kill his brother, but Nathan persuades him that they'd be the obvious suspects, so they plot to kill a random child instead. It's supposed to be the perfect crime, but Nathan loses his glasses. They prove to have an unusual hinge, which leads the police to the murderers.

The history is probably not entirely accurate, but it works on stage. Stephen Dolginoff, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics had to take some point of view and taking Nathan Leopold's makes for an interesting angle. In fact, the audience is drawn into feeling sympathetic towards Nathan. That is, of course, disturbing, but the show is restrained enough that it works.

As for the performances, both Christopher Smith as Nathan and Matthew Scarborough as Richard were very good. Scarborough was particularly expressive. His performance of "Roadster," in which Richard lures the victim, Bobby Franks, into his car was especially chilling. (By the way, one of the historical inaccuracies has to do with the age of the victim. I left with the impression that Bobby Franks was 8 or 9, but he was actually 14.) The two performed well together throughout, especially at the end with "Life Plus Ninety-Nine Years."

Overall, this was an interesting show and well worth seeing. An intimate and restrained musical, dark as the subject may be, is a worthwile antidote to the excessive spectacle that gets most of the attention in the theatrical world.
Tags: musicals, theatre

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