Thrill killers Leopold and Loeb get musical treatment

While other Vancouver companies start to dust off the theatrical equivalents of Christmas baubles, Fighting Chance Productions ignores the seasonal trend by presenting Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story, a two-handed musical about the 1924 thrill killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.

Braedon Cox and Michael Gill star in Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story In one of the first cases in the United States to be dubbed “trial of the century”, the notorious gay couple found themselves on trial for the kidnapping and murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks, and ultimately receiving life sentences for the murder.

“We always like to do something a little darker or newer,” explains director Ryan Mooney as to the choice of Thrill Me in the company’s season this year.  “It is a fascinating story and I’ve been looking at it for a while.  It may sound a bit cheesy but it does fit in with our overall theme this year which looks at just how far people will go for love.”

Interestingly, while Leopold and Loeb were a couple, the kidnapping and murder was never sexually motivated. As the worlds’ first so-called “thrill killers”, the duo was motivated by the sheer excitement of killing and in a twisted desire to commit the perfect crime.

“They were not pedophiles; it was just something about killing someone else that was a turn on for them.” says Mooney.

In recognizing the dark story may not be to everyone’s taste, Mooney insists the story still lends itself to the musical theatre genre.

“The story deals with these grand operatic themes and in a way a musical almost seems like a perfect way to present it,” explains Mooney.  “These guys lived in this heightened sense of reality where they didn’t think they would get caught.”

Readily admitting audiences may find they are a bit uncomfortable with the story in places, for Mooney that is not a bad thing.

“I find that darker side of humanity interesting,” admits Mooney.  “It is all tastefully done since you never see the boy they kidnap and you don’t see the killing, but it is still somehow creepier just by them talking about it.”

While finding the actors to play these two dark characters was a little problematic as one of the original cast moved onto another project, Mooney says he never sets himself up for failure when it comes to casting.

“I don’t pick a show like this without knowing someone could do it,” says Mooney.  “It was finding that other person to play against Braedon (Cox) that was a little difficult, but when we found Michael (Gill) it was a perfect match. They really have a great chemistry on stage.”

With only two in the cast, Mooney says the piece becomes even more intimate from being presented in the 50-seat Renegade Studios Theatre. “It is this nice warehouse space and while it isn’t really a traditional theatre it is the perfect place for this show.”

Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story
20 November – 2 December 2012
Renegade Arts Studios

Composer and Lyricist Stephen Dolginoff provides a creepy two man musical about Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, the world’s first thrill killers. When arson and petty crime isn’t enough the self-titled Nitzche “supermen” decide to commit the perfect crime by kidnapping and murdering a 10 year old boy. What happens next is just the beginning as their relationship and motives are called into question and as both men face the ultimate fate. Visit http://www.fightingchanceproductions.ca for tickets and information.

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