Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story. Book, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Dolginoff. Jermyn Street Theatre, London SW1 to 5 February 2022. 4**** .William Russell

This is not the Leopold and Leopold story as the title suggest but Leopold’s version of it as imagined by Stephen Dolginoff. That does not mean it is not a very good chamber musical about a crime which horrified America in 1925. They were Chicago teenagers, well off college students involved in a homosexual relatio ship. Nathan Leopold was obsessed with the better looking, but less clever Richard Loeb who liked to torment him by withholding the thrills demanded. The pair passed their time behaving badly – arson, burglary, and, in Leopold’s case, following the works of Nietzsche which led the pair considering themselves supermen – Loeb for Leopold, the submissive character, was his superman and Loeb, vain and aware of his charms, fell for the idea. It led eventually to murder. They kidnapped Loeb’s nephew Bobby Frank, who Loeb killed,s and then demanded a ransom from the boiy’s parents.
But it was not the perfect crime they thought. Leopold had lost his glasses at the scene, which, being , of an exclusive make and led to his bei ng identified. at the scene . The crime gripped the nation the pair gave interviews to the press, and were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment after a show stopping trial in which they were defended by Clarence Darrow.
They were sentenced to life, Darrow having managed to persuade the court not to send them to the gallows.Loeb was killed in prison a few years later. Leopold was released after serving 35 years and ended his days in Costa Rica. The musical is about his interview with the Parole Board so believe what you wi but it allows Dolginoff to spring a final curtain surprise. Leopold has his own axe to grind.
None of this takes away from the fact that the books is good, the lyrics flow – Dolginoff has managed to create what sounds like conversation except that it rhymes, and his score is interesting to listen to. It, gets well performed by Benjamin McQuigg on the piano although an orchestral version would be more interesting. The evening’s great asset is the two actors who play Leopold (Bart Lambert) and Loeb (Jack Reitman). They are a tad old to play teenagers but both create believable characters, Leopold a sexually voracious but frustrated submissive, Loeb a vain, domineering and callous lover. Neither is likeable but they are real and riveting to watch.
It has all been efficiently staged by director Matthew Parker although the set by Rachael Ryan is something of a disappointment. Itt looks like someone’s workshop come garage in which there are a lot of boxes which keep getting moved about to no great point, a mess of impossible to read newspaper clippings on the walls, impossible to read, about the trial. However go see Lambert and Reitman chill your blood.
Nathan Leopold: Bart Lambert.
Richard Loeb: Jack Reitman.
Voiceovers: Dewi Hughes, Brian Pilkington.

Directir: Matthew Parker.
Musical Director: Benjamin McQuigg.
Designer: Rachael Ryan.
Lighting Designer: Chris McDonnell.
Sound Designer: Simon Arrowsmith.
Photographer: Steve Gregson

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