Monday, October 24, 2011

Rising Action Theatre: Thrill Me (2 reviews)

Rising Action Theatre opened its production of  Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Musical on October 21, 2011.
The South Florida premiere of the acclaimed musical based on the true story of Leopold and Loeb, the so-called thrill killers who murdered a young boy in 1924 in order to commit the perfect crime.
While this crime was previously depicted in the film dramas Hitchcock's Rope and Compulsion, this is the first musical version, and the most frank in revealing the couple's mutual sexual attraction. It has been performed in over 50 productions worldwide to great acclaim; its Off-Broadway run at the York Theatre was nominated for both Drama Desk and Outer Circle Awards.
Andy Rogow directed a cast that featured Christopher Michaels and Bryan C. Orgtega.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Grounded in fact, Thrill Me is a chamber musical that explores myriad facets of ugliness in what becomes a killer relationship. Loeb, at least as Ortega plays him, obliges Leopold’s sexual desires not out of any passion but merely as a way of getting Nathan to go along with his twisted plans. Michaels’ Leopold is flat-out addicted to Loeb. Nothing else, not even murder, matters to him.
Artfully accompanied by pianist Emmanuel Schvartzmann, the actors sing well, individually and together, as they bring their characters to creepy fruition. Ortega is particularly chilling as he sings Roadster, smiling and improvising as he entices the unseen Bobby into the car where death awaits. And there is a twist just after the two “superior” killers are caught, one that Michaels handles with just the right amount of relish.
Under director Andy Rogow, the production values are simple yet moodily effective, the piano so much better than recorded music, the small-scale musical just right for the space. Here’s hoping that, wherever Rising Action lands, the growth continues.
Michelle F. Solomon reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The intimate space, a small auditorium housed in the back of Sunshine Cathedral, provides yet another layer of drama for Rising Action Theatre’s taut production of the murder musical Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story.
Christopher Michaels as Leopold inhabits his character, giving a strong performance, both dramatically and vocally. This is the more demanding role of the two as the script calls for his character to frequently change moods ― from young, lovestruck college boy to a 53-year old prisoner facing a parole board 34 years later. Michaels handles the task with skill and the transition is never choppy. His Leopold is immature, nervous and nerdy, but also likeable.
Bryan C. Ortega as the arrogant and confident Richard Loeb plays the character true to its writing as a Nietzsche-worshiping “superior being.” It is fairly one note, all bravado and swagger, and Ortega seems to relish the opportunity to play master, rattling off orders to Leopold, his servant. His haunting schoolyard song “Roadster” is finely eerie, with perfect pitch and pacing as the stranger luring his bait.
Andy Rogow, Rising Action’s artistic director and a Chicago native himself, knows where to place the tension, then bring things back for a slight pause until amping it up again.
Thrill Me isn’t an easy undertaking, but the verdict is more than clear; Rising Action Theater’s production is must-see thrilling.
Rising Action Theatre presents Thrill Me; The Leopold and Loeb Musical at the Sunshine Cathedral through November 20, 2011.

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