GEORGE Stagnell made his mark in two of the best York productions of last year, first in the solo play Private Peaceful and later in the northern tour of Bomb Happy, another war memoir.

Now he co-stars in the first new York production of 2018, performing with fellow Pick Me Up Theatre regular Sam Hird in the York premiere of New York writer Stephen Dolingoff's murder musical, Thrill Me: The Leopold And Loeb Story.

Stagnell and Hird had seen Dolingoff's work in Edinburgh last summer and decided they"had to do it". They are not alone in their enthusiasm: Thrill Me has been performed in 150 productions across 16 countries in ten languages and apparently is particularly popular in South East Asia.

In essence, Leopold and Loeb's tale is a love story, albeit a twisted one, and that gives it universal appeal. Indeed Alfred Hitchcock's ground-breaking Rope and Richard Fleischer's 1959 film Compulsion are rooted in the same story.

Thrill Me, with book, lyrics and a solo piano score by Dolginoff, is a psychological study of the intense relationship of highly intelligent, wealthy Chicago law students Nathan Leopold (Bird) and Richard Loeb (Stagnell), the so-called "thrill killers" who murdered a 12-year-old in 1924 in an attempt to commit the perfect crime as the apex of a series of dares, ranging from arson to burglary.

York Press:

George Stagnell and Sam Hird: "Conveying both the intellectual and physical to and fro". Picture: Matthew Kitchen

They are lovers too, the loner Leopold consumed by his obsession with Loeb, becoming his willing accomplice, prepared to do anything for him in return for his love and attention. Leopold is vainglorious and cocksure, fixating on the philosophy of Nietzche and believing he is indeed a Nietzschean Superman, above the law, untouchable, beyond detection, beyond good and evil.

Yet, without giving any twists away, not everything is as it seems on the bubbling surface, and Hird and Stagnell are admirably skilled in conveying both the intellectual and physical to and fro as they tread the shifting sands of their relationship. It helps that we see them so close up on the traverse-stage walkway in Robert Readman's production, with pianist Sam Johnson a constant driving presence behind them.

Singing heightens drama, heightens tension, heightens self-expression, as inner thoughts burst out, and Stagnell and Hird are riveting to watch as Loeb and Leopold play out their dark plans in flashback.

What next? Sam Hird, still only 18, has just gained a place at the Royal College of Music, London, where he will major in singing from September. George Stagnell will appear alongside Anna Rogers and Claire Morley in Wildgoose Theatre's York premiere of Jez Butterworth's The River at Friargate Theatre, York, from April 26 to 29.

Meanwhile, Pick Me Up supremo Readman has been sent the scores for all seven of Dolginoff's musicals by the American, with talk of the York company possibly staging the British premiere of Monster Makers, his triple bill inspired by three monstrously true behind-the-scenes stories of the most famous horror movies in cinema history. Watch this space – but first watch this week's superb show.

Thrill Me: The Leopold And Loeb Story, Pick Me Up Theatre, York Medical Society, Stonegate, York, tonight, tomorrow and Thursday, 7.30pm. Box office: 01757 288248 or at