Review – Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story, Tristan Bates Theatre

Wednesday 20 April 2011

You might be surprised to learn that people occasionally try to pick the Whingers’ curdled brains about what to see in the West End. We always are. We freely concede to knowing nothing. Yet, peculiarly some misguided folk are foolish enough to canvass our opinions.

Thankfully there is often just one thing which we agree is the absolute must-see du jour. The crown of 2009’s Jerusalem‘s passed readily to 2010’s Clybourne Park, and since few accord our atypical delirium over The Umbrellas of Cherbourg our latest chirrup is a duet endorsing the serial-killer “musical” London “umm, impatiens” Road.

And queerly, Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story (Tristan Bates Theatre) follows London Road as our second musical about grisly murder in a week.

It is based, of course, on the oft artistically recounted story of killers Leopold and Loeb who took a fourteen-year-old boy’s life just for kicks.

Nathan Leopold (Jye Frasca) and Richard Loeb (George Maguire) were wealthy Chicago college students in the 1920s, the former falling under the spell of the Nietzschean-reading  latter, following his edicts to help him commit the perfect crime in return for affection and possibly sex. Basically Nathan wanted Dick, but went largely unrewarded. The favours the ruthless Loeb bestows on Leopold in Thrill Me would barely get them thrown out of the John Snow pub (it’s rather peculiar Googling “gay John Snow”, one wondered what on earth might come up).

Director Guy Retallack builds the tension aided by two fine performances; Leopold’s nervy neediness and Loeb’s languid “superiority” are nicely delineated. If the Whingers found the songs and music (Stephen Dolginoff, who also wrote the book) a bit samey, that’s possibly at least partly the limitation two voices* and a single piano. We did, however, admire one song which was warbled partially to the clattering of typewriter keys; another chillingly effective number was sung down opposite ends of a telephone line. They do add to the well-told story’s progress which is sometimes quite gripping.

It’s atmospherically lit by Richard Williamson, even if the scene where L&L try their hand at arson illuminated the row of unmarried gentlemen’s bald pates in front of the Whingers somewhat distractingly.

We commend the neat, almost Roald Dahl-style twist provided by tweeking the facts with a little artistic license and also the best blood-letting-from-a-digit-with-a-knife scene in a musical since Betty Blue Eyes.

Whilst not exactly on our exclusive list of must-sees, it’s still worth catching. That’s if you’re not busily occupied camping outside the John Snow waiting for the latest kiss-in.



*Not exactly just two. The recorded voices of Patricia Quinn, Les Dennis and Lee Mead are used occasionally. Their voice-over credits in the admirably free programme are splendidly succinct. For example:

Les is acknowledged as one of Britain’s most popular entertainers and as well as being well-known to TV viewers through top game show Family Fortunes. He has a long list of theatre, film and television credits to his name.

2 Responses to “Review – Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story, Tristan Bates Theatre”

  1. Sock Monkey Says:

    I saw that show. It was crap. Utter crap.

  2. RachelGreene Says:

    It’s a dark sinister play, superbly acted by Jye and George. Both have powerful voices and it shows beautifully as they talk and sing accompanied by piano(fabulous pianist)throughout. One song is sung along to the keys of a typewriter. Subject matter aside you cannot fail to be impressed by the acting (and singing) talent of either of these actors. I liked it and would recommend.

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