Theatre: Thrill Me

Thrill me sounds like the name of one of Max Bialystock's little old ladies with a cheque (or perhaps if it were a little old lady it would be Thrill Me, Kill Me), but there was something intriguing about a musical based on the unlikely subject of a couple of homosexuals in 1920s Chicago who rob and kill for kicks. It is currently playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre.

I was familiar with the story first through the 1992 movie Swoon (which played up the gay aspects of the story) and Hitchcock's Rope (which played down them, unless you take an alternate reading of Jimmy Stewart's interest in the two young men). Both of these treatments managed to inject some entertainment and humour in the proceedings. This version takes itself a little too seriously and the music feels endlessly repetitive, uninspired and even at times superfluous. It is a pity when there were such great opportunities with the material, and not just because it is in the same period as Chicago. Despite the jazz age period there is little jazz and even less razzle dazzle, which makes it hard going through all this exposition at first. Perhaps if the book, music and lyrics were not all written by Stephen Dolginoff things might have turned out better.

Things pick up quite a bit however when the murder takes place and then the perfect crime begins to unravel. The work then seems to have a sense of drama and momentum about it. Perhaps the greatest strength of the show is that it provides a rational explanation and argument for what were a series of senseless crimes... And it had me wondering about the things I did for old boyfriends (thankfully none of them were homicidal kleptomaniacs).

This is a simple production but looks good with the haze and the lights and the performances of the two leads Jye Frasca and George Maguire are excellent. It is probably more fun to perform the show than watch it. The Polish woman next to Johnnyfox had some very unkind things to say about it although given she did not know the original story we wondered whether it was too homosexual for her tastes. It runs through to the end of the month. Notwithstanding my initial reservations, it turned out to be a mildly thought provoking and creepy night out at the theatre... Rambling boo is below...


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