Photos – Chris Parker
In 1920s Chicago two priviledged, intelligent young men shocked society after being convicted of committing a vicious, callous murder. The story of these 'Thrill Killers" became the inspiration for numerous works, including at least two films (one being Alfred Hitchock's Rope). Thrill Me is the musical incarnation.
Richard Loeb was obsessed with crime. As portrayed here, he was also arrogant with a dominating, cruel personality and purely interested in his own arousal.
Nathan Leopold was obsessed with Loeb. He was needy and committed to fulfilling any need to please Loeb.
Both men were gay and in a secret, if unbalanced, relationship.
Stephen Dolginoff has expertly crafted (Book, Music and Lyrics) a chamber musical that explores this dangerous relationship and the lead up to the crime, in a manner that is completely engrossing and even spell-binding.
Set in prison 34 years after the conviction, Leopold is being questioned by a Parole Board on what really happened and why.
Flashbacks reveal how Leopold was completely captivated by the personality of Loeb, a man he knew from their school days together, even though Loeb was seriously unhinged. Petty crimes (with the assistance of the submissive Leopold) intensified until Loeb convinced him of the untimate thrill – randomly killing someone – in this case a young boy.
Right up to the very end, Dolginoff's writing keeps the surprises coming. Along the way, there are some seriously chilling moments (such as the tune Roadster, where Loeb coerces the boy to get into his car) that are quite unnerving. With only two performers onstage, the music is haunting, blending harmonies beautifully.
Director Terence O'Connell has done a splendid job in staging this in a very intimate space. With such rich material to work with, he has focussed on his performers, ensuring that every single line is clearly heard. This has paid off handsomely.
Stephen Madsen is a wonderfully cold, uncaring Loeb, while Vincent Hooper is remarkable as Leopold shifting from a mature prisoner to an almost child-like young man with ease. Both performances carry this work to another level.
On Daniel Harvey's set comprising mostly of wooden crates, with Jason Bovaird's expert lighting, Thrill Me is played out with a force that is pleasantly unexpected.
This is a wonderful production, and an example of what great theatre a Festival such as Midsumma can generate. Do not miss this opportunity.
Ghost Light with Moving Light Productions present
THRILL ME: THE LEOPOLD & LOEB STORY
books, music & lyrics Stephen Dolginoff
Director Terence O’Connell
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel St Prahran, Melbourne
Dates: 21 – 31 January 2016
Tickets: $35 – $30
Part of the 2016 Midsumma Festival