Review: Thrill Me (capricorn 9 productions)
By Sam Mooney
Thrill Me, a musical of the infamous Leopold and Loeb story is playing at Toronto’s Red Sandcastle Theatre
The show was written by Stephen Dolginoff and first produced off-Broadway in 2005. It’s been produced all over the world and has won a number of awards. I hadn’t ever heard of it but decided to see it because I couldn’t imagine a musical about Leopold and Loeb.
It seems as if I’ve always been aware of Leopold and Loeb but it was probably the late sixties or early seventies when I read about them. When I told people I was going to see a musical about Leopold and Loeb reactions were split according to age. People under 50 had no idea who Leopold and Loeb were and people over 50 thought it was a strange subject for a musical.For those of you under 50 you can read about Leopold and Loeb on Wikipedia.
Sergio Caldron played Richard Loeb and Oscar Moreno played Nathan Leopold in this production directed by Larry Westlake. Michael Leach is the Musical Director.
The story is told in a series of flashbacks. Leopold is being interviewed by a parole board in 1958. It’s his fifth appearance before the parole board and this time he tells them more about what really happened in the hope of being released from his life plus 99 years sentence. The parole board is actually a recording.
Thrill Me is not necessarily the ‘true’ story of Leopold and Loeb but it is an entertaining story if very creepy. It focuses on a sexual relationship between the two as one of the driving forces behind the crime. The focus I’m most familiar with is that the two were geniuses and believed that they were ‘supermen’ as defined by Nietzsche and could commit the perfect crime.
There’s not a lot of dialogue, mostly just between Leopold and the parole board. No hummable tunes, it isn’t that kind of musical, but both the music and lyrics were well done even if there were a few tortured rhymes.
Caldron and Moreno both gave strong performances. Moreno played Nathan as the follower in the relationship, as someone who would do anything for love and attention from Loeb. Very needy and suggestible. He does question the things that Loeb suggests but always agrees to do them in return for physical affection from Loeb.
Caldron played Loeb as a cold and controlling person who knew that Leopold would do anything for him and used that knowledge to get what he wanted. There were glimpses of something else throughout the performance, hints that perhaps Loeb wasn’t as cold as he appeared, that he needed Leopold as much as Leopold needed him.
It was, of necessity, an intimate production. Red Sandcastle Theatre is a tiny space. I was impressed that they managed to have a thrust stage (I had to ask Megan what it was called). I really like productions in small places. There’s nowhere for the performers or the audience to hide. I prefer it when actors aren’t miked and when the music isn’t amplified. As it was, I almost had a heart attack when the piano started; I was sitting in front of it and hadn’t noticed.
I enjoyed the performances and found the angle from which the story was approached very interesting. I didn’t really connect emotionally with the production but I am glad I saw it.
- Thrill Me is playing at Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen St. E) until July 27th
- Performances times: Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm
- Tickets are $25.00 and $20.00 for students, seniors, and arts workers
- Tickets are available by phone at 416-845-9411 and at the door
Photo of Sergio Caldron as Loeb and Oscar Moreno as Leopold