thrill meIt’s been done several times on stage and on film before, but the story of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb has been given the musical treatment here, with book, music and lyrics by Stephen Dolginoff.

The adaptation has been nicely framed: the plot is delivered as a series of flashbacks, as Leopold (Danny Colligan) retells the story to his parole officers. Given that his character is the more openly vulnerable and subservient in this two-hander, this dramatic device helps the power balance oscillate throughout the show, supplying a cryptic momentum – what happened to Loeb?

The plot sees Leopold and Loeb commit a series of escalating crimes together, with Loeb driven by the thrill of the crimes themselves, and Leopold driven by the thrill of their sexual partnership. The final infamous crime is the murder of a random schoolboy, held for ransom, mutilated and hidden. The success of this production revolves around the two convincing central performances; Jo Parsons’s Loeb in particular excels, carrying with him an alluring, mysterious melancholy – he’s simultaneously sensitive and psychopathic.

This is all entertaining enough, but it’s not really clear what this story gains from being turned into a musical. The narrative is far better suited to its tense thriller incarnation as Hitchcock’s Rope. The writing here is often crass, with Loeb perpetually returning to his reading of Nietzsche without any interrogation of the ideas. The songs are largely unmemorable and occasionally hackneyed, particularly one in which the two men watch the flaming results of their arson and sing around a protracted ‘fire equals love’ conceit. Too often the writing is set to ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’, which sacrifices intensity.

This is musical theatre for music theatre’s sake – which is fine for fans, but Thrill Me isn’t really sophisticated enough to justify itself on its own terms.

Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story played at C (Venue 34) as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.