A Completely Different Kind of Musical
By Skip Sheffield
And now for a completely different kind of musical we submit “Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story,” continuing through June 8 at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center.
Outre Theatre Company is not one to shy away from controversial topics. Not only is “Thrill Me” a gay romance between two men, those men are convicted murderers.
Composer-lyricist-playwright Stephen Dolginoff was inspired by the real-life scandalous case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, otherwise known simply as Leopold and Loeb.
Leopold and Loeb were two smart guys (Leopold had a genius IQ) from suburban Chicago in the year 1924. Both men were in college studying law, but apparently that was not stimulating enough. Loeb had been reading the German philosopher Nietzsche who advanced the theory of a “superman” who was somehow above mortal law. To test his theory Loeb enlisted Leopold to embark on a wave of petty crimes, each one larger than the next. After torching a warehouse Loeb urged Leopold to help him commit the “perfect crime:” the murder of a randomly chosen boy.
The unfortunate boy was named Bobby Franks, 14. He was a good kid from a well-off family. Leopold and Loeb lured him into a car and drove off to a remote area by a lake where they brutally murdered and mutilated the boy.
Normally in a musical you have characters you can identify and sympathize with. Not so in this work, first mounted in 2003 and directed by Skye Whitcomb for this revival. Instead we are shocked and appalled.
There is an underlying gay romance, presented in the lyrics of the songs, with titles such as “Everybody Wants Richard,” “Thrill Me” and “Way Too Far.”
Nathan Leopold is sung by Michael Westrich and Richard Leob is sung by Conor Walton. Musical director Kristen Long provides the solo piano accompaniment. Both men are good singers who convincingly convey the obsessive relationship of the dominant Leob and more submissive Leopold. The only song that really stuck in my mind was the finale, “Life Plus 99 Years,” which was the sentence of both men after their lives were spared by the sheer eloquence of their famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow.
If there is anything to be taken away from this show, it is the fact that when a person considers himself Godlike, really bad things can happen. Just look at the recent massacre in Santa Barbara.
Call 954-300-2149 or visit www.outretheatrecompany.com for tickets.