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Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Elden Street Players Thrill Me!

By • Mar 28th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Thrill Me! by Stephen Dolginoff
Elden Street Players
Industrial Strength TheaterHerndon, VA
Through April 16th
90 minutes, without intermission
$22/$19 Senior Citizens and Students
Reviewed March 25th, 2011

Thrill Me, The Leopold & Loeb Story is a musical with book, music, and lyrics by Stephen Dolginoff. It tells the story of the murder of Bobby Franks by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in 1924. A simple piano, somber lighting by Light Designer Tom Epps and a minimalist set by set designer Grant Kevin Lane set the tone for this dark production.

Nathan Leopold’s attraction to Richard Loeb went past mere attraction to a form of deadly hero worship. Played by Christopher Smith, Nathan had expressions that came across as sincerely believable. His emotions played out well during his songs. He was able to maintain the high notes with clarity and made good use of the stage and it’s levels. With his twisted mind, in some ways, Nathan was the more evil of the two as his need to be with Richard became all-consuming as he readily followed Richard from one crime to another all for the sake of being near his idol.

The best word to describe Richard Loeb was “user.” He used Nathan to commit the perfect crime then seemed willing to cast him aside once the murder was carried out. He used his father and mother for money. Richard was played by Matthew Scarborough. He was a strong character and very sure of himself. With an arrogant swagger and haughty air, he was unstoppable, at least in his own mind. He was a hot head who committed crimes for the thrill of it and to prove he was above the law. His desire to always top himself began with simple arson then to breaking and stealing until finally the last mountain to climb involved kidnapping and a grisly murder.

Scarborough and Smith balanced vocally together well. Both could be heard easily without having to belt over the piano, played by Music Director Scott Richards.

The set, built of wood and on many different heights and sized platforms, made good use of the stage and allowed for movement to be smooth. Director Lorraine Magee kept the two men on stage through out the performance and almost constantly moving which kept the tension and energy high. By using few props that were befitting of the 20′s this allowed the audience to focus on the characters and their story.

Thrill Me does contain strong language and mature adult themes. It is a dark, sinister show that explores how far evil and its companion can go, and if redemption is possible.

Director’s Notes

Crime is fascinating. Murder and its causes especially fascinate us. Yes, us. I can’t be the only person watching all those Criminal Mind reruns on cable.

As murderers go, Nathan Leopold, Jr. and Richard Loeb are among the most fascinating. Their murder of Bobby Franks was the subject of extensive press in 1924; not only in Chicago, but across the United States. No small feat when, in the previous year, the Daily Tribune reported over 640 deaths in Cook County alone (including 234 from guns and 189 from “moonshine.”) Almost a century later, Leopold and Loeb are still with us. Why?

The record on the case is extensive. The crime has been th subject of several scholarly works, including a book published only four years ago. But something’s still missing. Perhaps it’s because the boys, the primary source of information about themselves and the crime, were unreliable reporters (see Leopold’s self-serving autobiography). Perhaps the times were such that a truly accurate record was impossible; the tale seemed too sordid and the status of the families involved too important to taint with facts deemed unacceptable. Whatever the reason, the record is insufficient. Thank goodness we have the arts!

Theater is not the library. We come here not to research the facts but to see into the soul. To come to some understanding of people and events (whether real or fictional) that makes us see our world in a new way. And the musical, as a genre, has the ability to bring us to the heart of a story in ways that other arts cannot.

So, while th murder of Bobby Franks has provided the basis for other theatrical endeavors, tonight, you will see a new take on this fascinating story. Is it th truth? Perhaps a better question would be “is it a truth?”

You are about o enter a world that you may find extremely uncomfortable in some places and oddly familiar in others, which, if true, may make you even more uncomfortable. Am I scaring you?

Lorraine Magee

Photo Gallery

Nathan (Christopher Smith, left) and Richard (Matthew Scarborough, right) write the contract that ultimately leads to their downfall. Nathan (Christopher Smith, left/background) watches Richard (Matthew Scarborough, right/foreground) examine tools for their murderous plan.
Nathan (Christopher Smith, left) and Richard (Matthew Scarborough, right) write the contract that ultimately leads to their downfall.
Nathan (Christopher Smith, left/background) watches Richard (Matthew Scarborough, right/foreground) examine tools for their murderous plan.

Photo by Laura Moody

Cast

  • Nathan: Christopher Smith
  • Richard: Matthew Scarborough
  • Voice Overs: Michael Sherman, John Bordeaux and Nano Gowland

Crew

  • Producer: Richard Durkin
  • Director: Lorraine Magee
  • Music Director: Scott Richards
  • Stage Manager: Arthur Rodger
  • Assisted By: Caroline Werenskjold and Laura Moody
  • Set Designer: Grant Kevin Lane
  • Master Carpenter: Marty Sullivan
  • Set Construction: Mike Schlabach, Bill Behan, Theresa Bender, Ian Brown, Jay Vasko, Don Peterson
  • Set Painting: Grant Kevin Lane
  • Set Properties: Grant Kevin Lane
  • Lighting Design: Tom Epps
  • Lightboard Operators: Barbara Carpenter, Peter Halverson, Mary Ann Hall, Don Peterson
  • Sound Design: Stan Harris
  • Soundboard Operators: Laura Moody
  • Costume Design: Patricia Tinder
  • Hair/Makeup Design: Laura Fontaine
  • House Management: Dave Sinclair
  • Box Office Management: Angie Anderson, Sandy Sullivan
  • Publicity: Rich Klare, Ginger Kohles
  • Cover Graphic: Lorraine Magee
  • Playbill: Ginger Kohles
  • Photographer: Laura Moody
  • Volunteer Coordinator: Theresa Bender

Disclaimer: Elden Street Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. ESP also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site, which did not influence this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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