Sunday, September 09, 2007

Thrill Me...

I am, indeed, still alive. It's just been a very busy few weeks for me.

THRILL ME: THE LEOPOLD & LOEB STORY by Stephen Dolginoff just opened at The New Phoenix Theatre this past Friday and we only had seven days to put it all together! It was a grueling, hot, voice-losing process but it all paid off!

If you don't already know, The Phoenix chose to mount this phenomenally dark musical with me and the playwright/composer, Stephen Dolginoff. Michael Hake serves as musical director and accompanist and Bob Waterhouse directed.

It runs through September 29th...every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. (except for the "Curtain Up!" performance on the 14th which begins at 8:30.)

Mary Loftus saw the show last night and had this to say about the show:

THRILL ME? OH YEAH!!!!!
WHAT A WEEKEND FOR THEATRE DOWNTOWN!!!!!!

I knew Manny Fried's production would be terrific. I was less sure about Phoenix Theatre's production of the story of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, not only because it was the "Crime of the Century" back in 1924 (and still resounded in the years in which I was growing up) - but because the author dared to make it a "musical"!!!! Yeah, that's right - a musical. OK, I said to myself, what chance could this thing have? Well, hell, let's go see. I persuaded my friend, Jill Beck, to go with me, poor innocent that she is.

Well, let me tell you (and I will whether you let me or not) THRILL ME is one very compelling production. You cannot take your eyes off the two actors up there, whether they are just talking or going off into a totally generic musical piece. There are no big intros to any of the songs - which just insinuate themselves into the action and are entirely in keeping with the action. No disturbing or disrupting the action.

And Joe Demerly works completely against type or anything I have ever seen him do - and makes the most of it!! He's terrific as one of the most skanky guys you might ever meet outside of an asylum. Somehow he makes his insanity seem just outside normal. Great job Joe!!! And nice suit!!!!

The author of the book, music and lyrics of this improbable show, Stephen Dolginoff, superbly brings to life the poor schlemiel so in love with Richard Loeb that he has no will of his own. I have to wonder about the mind that could dream up such a "musical", but he is an utterly charming and apparently sane individual. And a wonderful actor and singer. He also deserves applause for writing music and lyrics that add to and carry along the book. No huge crescendoes for Mr. Dolginoff. Simple melodies that hold you and underline motivations.

If you don't know the story of Leopold/Loeb, I don't know where you have been, because there have been at least two movies and many books about it. In light of local murderers like our very own Bike Path Strangler, their crime might not seem like so much today; but in 1924, it was as though the doors of hell had opened and earned a defense from no one less than the legendary Clarence Darrow.

Dolginoff does not spin off into the court proceedings, wisely keeping us mesmerized with the two characters and their tangled minds.

Director: Phoenix stalwart, Robert Waterhouse, assisted by Dechen Dolkar. Wonderful job.

Very simple but atmospheric set by David Butler. How wise of him to keep the set to a minimum. But we all know he is a genius.

The great Michael Hake on keyboard provided the accompaniment. Sound, Tom Makar. Lighting and stage managing, Kurt Schneiderman, backed up by Aubrey Zich; Art and Graphics by Mike Klemm.

So, should you see this show? ABSOLUTELY! It is a wonderful production. You'll be sorry if you miss it.

But visit the comfort station before the show because it is without intermission.
I hope you can check it out too! Let me know what you think...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Saw it last night....Incredible, mezmerizing, captivating. Performances by both actors are above stellar. It grabs you from the first scene and takes you on a ride with an ending that will .... well I won't spoil it. Joe....you were great. Love, Aunt Helen

Rion said...

Way to go! :-)

Anonymous said...

Too bad Stephen's a "little" too old to be playing the part, yet again. Diva or no?