Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story is a musical drama based on the real case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. The play, a two-hander, was written and performed by a group of three extremely talented men. We start in a courtroom with Nathan, who appears to be at a parole hearing. From the get go, we are introduced to the innocence of this character. For those unaware of the real case (like me), we bought into the idea that Nathan is a naïve young boy who just got swept up in the moment.
Through a series of flashbacks Nathan, introduces us to Richard, a close friend of his who moved away to Chicago. Richard doesn’t seem to care much for Nathan but that doesn’t stop Nathan from following him around. An arrogant man and an admirer of Nietzsche, Richard begins to involve Nathan in his petty crimes. While committing arson and stealing doesn’t give Richard the media attention that he craves, he believes that murder will. After all he is an intelligent wealthy man who is ‘superior’ to everyone else. Why can’t he commit the perfect murder? Nathan on the other hand appears to be a bumbling sidekick who seems to get everything wrong.
Though a suprising topic for a musical, it really worked. The stakes are high, the notes were in key and their relationship – like their crimes – was full of passion. We are led to believe that Richard is the bad one, he is the one leading on Nathan. He is the one that betrays Nathan and encourages him to confess. Nathan is made a scapegoat by the man he loves. But as it turns out, Nathan is the more sociapathic one and I can tell you now that when Nathan was confessing to the love of his life how he made it so that they would both be in prison together, the audience were on the edge of their seats hanging onto every word. We, the audience, felt betrayed and we loved every second of it.
Winner of the first Broadway Baby Award in 2014, this play stuck with the same director but introduced two new actors, Ellis Dackombe and Harry Downes. The chemistry between the two actors was perfect. We all believed how turned on Richard got when he and Nathan burned down the warehouse. The stamina needed to sustain such roles for just under 90 minutes is something to applaud. Dackombe and Downes did not miss a beat nor screw up a note. As musicals go, this dark romance tops the list.
Thrill Me… played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.