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Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story

a Musical One Act
by Stephen Dolginoff

COMPANY : Newnan Community Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Newnan Community Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4565

SHOWING : April 03, 2014 - April 13, 2014



Relationships can be murder. THRILL ME is a two-character musical drama that recounts the chilling true story of the legendary duo who committed one of the most infamous and heinous crimes of the twentieth century. Focusing on their obsessive relationship and utilizing Leopold’s 1958 parole hearing as a framework, THRILL ME reveals the series of events in 1924 Chicago that led about-to-be law students Leopold and Loeb to be forever remembered as "the thrill killers." Nathan Leopold was passionate about Richard Loeb, who was passionate about crime and excitement. They created a secret agreement to satisfy each other’s needs. Soon Richard convinced Nathan that they embodied Nietzsche’s idea of the "Superman" and were above society. Then he drew him into his plan to lure a young boy to his death just to prove they could get away with it. But their perfect crime unraveled due to a careless mistake. Or was it so careless?

*Mature Content*

Music Director Nick Silvestri
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Thrill Seekers
by playgoer
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Stephen Dolginoff’s two-person musical "Thrill Me" covers the story of Leopold & Loeb, positing a homosexual relationship in which Nathan Leopold’s obsession with Richard Loeb works against Loeb’s cat-and-mouse reciprocation to thrilling effect. In the running time of an hour, it takes us through their escalating series of crimes, which Loeb treats as exhilarating pranks, and flashes forward to Leopold’s release from prison in 1958 after 34 years of incarceration.

Mr. Dolginoff’s playwriting is sharp and incisive, and his music and lyrics are eminently listenable. This is a show that keeps interest from beginning to end, and that provokes thought and consideration even after. In many ways, it’s like a chamber musical-sized version of "Kiss of the Spider Woman." In both cases, we have two males joined in a close, crime-related relationship only one of them seems truly committed to at first. And in both cases, the roles give two actors myriad chances to show their acting and singing talents.

Newnan Theatre Company is presenting "Thrill Me" in its black box space. The space has been fitted as a dusty warehouse, with two support beams, chains and hooks hanging from the ceiling, a ladder, and various pallets and furnishings scattered about. This is theatre in the round, with two or three rows of chairs ranged around the perimeter of the playing space. Stage manager Paige Mikles and director Paul Conroy have worked with Jason Schmidt and Robbie Kirkland on set and props respectively, creating a unique show environment with tons of personality. (The period phones constructed from pipe fittings are terrific!) William Pratesi’s lighting design illuminates the playing space dimly, with one square beam of light dead center used to demarcate Leopold’s interactions with recorded voices of prison personnel.

Nick Silvestri’s music direction and Daniel Pope’s sound design work hand-in-hand to balance piano and vocals in a satisfying blend. Acoustics in a big, empty box of a theatre aren’t always good, but here they work well, given the intimate spatial relationship between actors and audience. Underscoring accompanies the end of every musical number, delaying audience applause until the end of the show, when it reverberates past the time the actors have made their bows and exited backstage.

The cast consists of two Columbus State University students. Jacob Demlow plays Nathan Leopold as a slightly nerdy, obsessive fellow. Devin Johnson plays Richard Loeb as a handsome, natty sadist. They have good chemistry, and their voices generally blend well. Neither voice, however, is quite up to the demands of the score. Their acting sells the show, with their vocals being tolerable, but never soaring.

Director Paul Conroy has taken a small, edgy, little-known musical and brought it to full life in a wonderfully atmospheric environment. Were the voices of the actors equal to the challenges of the score, this would be a total "wow" of a show. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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