A Demon Oozes Charm
Michael P. Cahill
Joshua Peterson and Eric Liddick in “Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story”
An unlikely musical hit was produced recently at the Marigny Theater by the adventurous To Do Productions. “Thrill Me: The Leopold And Loeb Story,” sets to music the familiar tale of the 1924 random thrill-killing of 14-year-old Bobby Franks by precocious, well-to-do Jazz Age geniuses Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.
After the 80-minute, intermission-less songspiel by Stephen Dolginoff, few came out of the theater humming “If We Killed My Brother John” or “Life Plus 99 Years.” But, as played by accomplished accompanist and musical director Jim Walpole and staged by director Glenn Meche, the music and action propel the tale swiftly and inexorably toward its inevitable conclusion.
Co-producer Donald “Donnie Jay” James designed the costumes, including an unforgettably dazzling yellow period suit for Loeb. Timm Holt, co-producer and owner of the theater, designed the evocative lighting for the sparse set and spare story.
The production was well cast. Making his local debut, Eric Michael Liddick portrayed Leopold. This writer has always felt that Leopold was the driving force of the deadly duo whose bid for the “perfect crime” was foiled by chance, human error and hubris. The script explores the not-so-subtle sado-masochistic underpinnings of their relationship and acknowledges law student Leopold as the pair’s ultimate mastermind.
The career-making role, however, belongs to Joshua Peterson as Loeb. After relocating to New Orleans, Peterson has spent the past year in the chorus of various musicals. Those days may be behind him. With a fine voice, classic good looks and a definite stage presence, Peterson perfectly portrayed Loeb’s self-image of the ultimate Nietzschean Superman. There is no stretch of the imagination to see how women, men, law school admission counselors and, well, anyone might have become obsessed with his surface, despite the rotten substance below. A devil in a pleasing form, Peterson’s Loeb is a devious, manipulative, petulant, psychopathic teen, who, above all, oozes charm. •