ThrillmebBrian Metz (on floor) and Samuel Spare star as the infamous Leopold and Loeb in “Thrill Me,” the musical appearing this week at Brookdale’s Performing Arts Center.


At first blush, it seems something out of Max Bialystock‘s reject pile: A two-character tunefest, based on the true story of two well-born young men who scandalized the nation when they lured and murdered a 14-year old boy in a terrifying scenario of hidden desires and emotional manipulation.

This isn’t the climate-controlled Camelot of Lerner and Loewe It’s the shadowland of Leopold and Loeb.

One of the first major scandals to surf the mass media in the United States, the 1924 case of Illinois teens Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb was a tale of attractions; the pull that Leopold felt toward the intellectually brilliant and manipulative Loeb, and the dark impulses that drew them into an ever-escalating pursuit of the “perfect crime.”


The case managed to attract the formidable Clarence Darrow as defense attorney, and continues to command the attention of eminent journalists, psychologists and dramatists. Among those inspired was playwright and composer Stephen Dolginoff, who created “Thrill Me: the Leopold and Loeb Story,” an acclaimed 2005 off-Broadway musical that comes to Brookdale Community College this week as the latest offering at the school’s Performing Arts Center.

According to Keith Heimann, an assistant professor of music at the Lincroft campus and the man who’s supervising both the acting and the musical aspects of this production, the rights to ‘Thrill Me’ only recently became available, and Brookdale will be presenting its first college staging in the U.S.

“We wanted to do shows this year that were very small and very intense,” Heimann tells redbankgreen.

Already, amateur and professional stagings of “Thrill Me” have begun to sprout up all over the map, from elsewhere in New Jersey to London, Berlin and South Korea.

“The Koreans must find these strange Americans fascinating,” observes Heimann of the unconventional show’s long-running engagement in Seoul. “It has a ‘Scottish play‘ feel. It explores the concept of ‘sex as a weapon;’ very mature while having almost a Jerry Springer approach.”

Any play that can be triangulated in terms of Macbeth, Springer and Pat Benatar surely has qualities that make people take notice — and for Heimann, it was Dolginoff’s music; a one-piano score (performed here by the director) that includes the decidedly creepy song “Roadster” in the scene leading up to the infamous murder.

“I’m always looking for new composers, new pieces,” Heimann explains. “This show has got a unique, completely new sound. (Dolginoff) really succeeds in working the characters’ subconscious thoughts out through the music.”

Opening with the 1958 parole hearing of the middle-aged Leopold and flashing back to scenes of the 1920s Leopold and Loeb, the brief (approximately 80 minutes) show is presented without an intermission, with the action unfolding against an industrial-looking backdrop of brick walls and sparse furnishings.

For the six performances at Brookdale’s PAC, four BCC students (Craig Lawlor, Zachary McCullough, Brian Metz and Sam Spare) will platoon in the two lead roles; the two Leopolds mixing and matching with the two Loebs in a novel strategy that their director feels will lend an edgier, altogether unpredictable dynamic to the project.

“The actors are doing a tremendous job,” Heimann maintains. “I’ve watched them take things from each other, and give things to each other throughout the rehearsals.”

Opening Thursday, at 8p, “Thrill Me” runs one weekend only, with showtimes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings (as well as 2p matinees Saturday and Sunday).

The BCC performing-arts season continues on March 29 with a concert by the Brookdale Big Band. Tickets ($10 general admission) can be reserved by calling the PAC box office at 732.224.2411.

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