Originally performed at The Hope Theatre and directed then as now by Matthew Parker, Thrill Me is a musical about convicted killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. Focusing on the relationship between the two, it makes for some intense and passionate theatre.
Before the production even begins, we get to marvel at Rachel Ryan’s set. Playful in appearance, it has the versatility of moving blocks to bring charm to the production. The use of multiple props could become tedious or distracting, but having them all neatly displayed on a shelf upstage works a treat. Credit must also go out to Chris McDonnell’s lighting design: it is memorable, creating stunning pictures on the stage, we really feel the warmth of the fire or the coldness of the police cell.
The play begins with musician (and musical director) Benjamin McQuigg playing the piano, a piano that at times does slightly struggle to fill the room. The opening doesn’t grab the audience immediately as we don’t feel directly immersed, but much better things are to come. McQuigg remains on stage, visible for the entire production, but sometimes it is easy to forget that he is there, in a good way! The complex score is played without fault and makes for the perfect accompaniment to the voices of the cast.
First to enter is Bart Lambert as Nathan Leopold; initially we see him as his older self, who begins to retell the story. Lambert shows Leopold’s changing age both physically and vocally. His transformations are clever and not fully appreciated until much later. Lambert seems to grow into his performance and improves as the evening plays out. He is an extremely obsessive character but the line is never crossed; everything he does, although heightened, remains rooted in realism and truth.
Opposite Lambert is Jack Reitman as the charismatic Richard Loeb. Reitman totally owns the stage, giving the performance of the night; it is difficult to take your eyes off of him as he effortlessly sings and embodies Loeb terrifically well. He brings a great depth to the character, one minute we are laughing with him, the next we are terrified.
The absolute best thing about this production of Thrill Me though is that the story is always at the heart of it. Parker has an extremely talented team around him, and he uses each to the best of their ability. They help facilitate a beautiful, funny yet unsettling production that is runs smoothly from start to finish. His direction allows the text to be punchy and there isn’t a dull moment all evening.
Written By Stephen Dolginoff
Directed by Mathew Parker
Designer: Rachel Ryan
Musical Director: Benjamin McQuigg
Lighting: Chris McDonnell
Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story plays at Jermyn Street Theatre until 5 February. Further information and bookings via the below link.