Thrill Me

Thrill-Me-castOriginal Cast, 2004 (Original Cast Records) 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) In musicalizing the true story of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who murdered a boy in 1924 Chicago, composer-lyricist-librettist Stephen Dolginoff didn’t attempt to replicate the Chicago method of dealing with such difficult and disturbing subject matter. Instead, he eschewed the splashy and comic, and he wrote a taut, chamber-musical character study that became a sold-out hit in the 2003 Midtown International Theatre Festival. The cast recording omits a few songs and lots of dialogue, but it preserves the work’s uncompromising intensity and perfectly integrated score. Christopher Totten handles Leopold’s material very well; he gives the soul-searching “Way Too Far” a beautiful rendition, and his “Thrill Me” is provocative. Matthew S. Morris imbues Loeb with a desperate arrogance and is outstanding in the show’s most memorable song, “Roadster,” in which Loeb lures his victim into his clutches. Dolginoff depicts the murderers as sparring, codependent lovers, and Leopold’s gradual transformation from a passive figure to a power player comes across well on the recording. Accompanied only by Gabriel Kahane on piano, Morris’s and Totten’s voices blend smoothly. Just try listening to the climactic number “Life Plus 99 Years” without getting the chills. — Matthew Murray