leopold story

Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story

Old Joint Stock


Read the blurb for this production and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that this is not the ideal subject matter for a musical. Based on the true story of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, the ‘thrill killers’ responsible for the brutal murder of 14 year old Bobby Franks in Chicago in 1924, Thrill Me dispels these thoughts within seconds of opening.  

The intimate setting of the Old Joint Stock Theatre is simply perfect for this intense piece. The studio floor space is fully decked and provides a base for the simple but highly effective set comprising of wooden crates, boxes and pallets. Combined with well designed atmospheric lighting the audience are easily transported between the various settings and time frames.

Props and costume are well chosen and mostly authentic to the time period. The only out of place prop is a plastic container used as a fuel canister.

From the opening it is dramatic and intense; it’s 1958 when we meet Nathan Leopold (Karl Steele) appearing before an unseen parole board. Standing upright and solemn in a single spotlight he begins to narrate the events that had occurred more than 30 years earlier.

With a simple change of spectacles (which we later discover play a vital role in the story) and a relaxed facial expression Steele instantly grows younger as we flashback to 1924 and are introduced to Richard Loeb played by James Edge. 

Loeb and Leopold are students at the University of Chicago, a pair who share in the belief that their superior intellects make them ‘supermen’ capable of committing the perfect crime.


Initially they are content to indulge in petty theft and arson but as their strangely symbiotic relationship develops and their interest in the works of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche deepens, they decide to pursue their desire for the ultimate thrill . . . murder.

This is deep, dark emotional drama and it’s not until the first notes are sung that you remember it’s actually a musical and not a play.  However the songs are not obtrusive and the actors transition seamlessly between dialogue and song.  The vocals and tonality are superb, with Steele and Edge’s voices blending and harmonising beautifully, much to the credit of Musical Director Nick Allen who provides the on-set piano accompaniment.

Director Adam Lacey has cast this two-hander perfectly. Steele and Edge are impeccable in their performance and hold the audience attention throughout. It is rare to see this quality of acting in a musical, and it would not be out of place in any straight drama. They cope well with demands of this psychological and chilling dramatisation displaying a host of emotions and character traits. Passion, love, manipulation, arousal, dependency, cruelty, sexual tension, abuse, fear, madness, superiority are all portrayed with great skill and credibility.

Every nuance and movement brings the audience deeper into the workings of the twisted and perverse minds of the two friends. Lacey’s creative direction successfully maintains the balance, pace and intensity needed right through to the twist in the tale ending.

An excellent piece of theatre all round. The Old Joint Stock Theatre Company has excelled.

Rosemary Manjunath


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