Love Kills (2009)

the world premiere
book, music, and lyrics by Kyle Jarrow
arrangements by Nathan Leigh
October 1-24, 2009
Washington University South Campus Theatre
Show Webpage
Production Photos

Caril Ann Fugate – Taylor Pietz
Charlie Starkweather – Philip Leveling
Sheriff Merle Karnopp – Zachary Allen Farmer
Gertrude Karmopp – Alison Helmer

Director – Scott Miller
Assistant Director – Matt Saltzberg
Stage Manager – Trisha Bakula
Set Designer – Frank Bradley
Costume Designer – Darren Hansen
Lighting Designer – Kenneth Zinkl
Sound Designer – Matthew J. Koch
Lighting Technician – Trisha Bakula
Props Master – Trisha Bakula
House Manager – Ann Stinebaker
Box Office Manager – Vicki Herrmann
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Jill Ritter

Guitar/Conductor – Mike Renard
Bass – Dave Hall
Percussion – Mike Schurk

Love Kills is a gripping and fascinating evening in the hands of director Scott Miller and New Line Theatre. . . Love Kills is not a comforting evening, not by a long shot. Identify too much with one couple or the other and you’re bound to feel bad about yourself. But Jarrow keeps feeding you moments in which you want the four of them to achieve everything they desire, even when the characters are at cross-purposes. The end result is much like navigating love – how do you give yourself to someone else and hold on to yourself at the same time? Life is long; if you’re lucky, long enough to figure it out.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

“I make it a point to seek out productions by New Line Theatre because I know I’ll see something edgy and original, and with the world premiere of Kyle Jarrow’s provocative work Love Kills they’ve, once again, fulfilled that desire. Jarrow’s musical meditation on the relationship between Charlie Starkweather and Caril Fugate, who embarked on a killing spree in Nebraska during the late 1950s, is an intriguing piece that succeeds in confounding expectations. The question as to whether or not Caril Fugate actually participated in the murders is one of the issues raised by Jarrow, and if there’s any truth to be gleaned from the facts presented in this dramatization, then New Line’s compelling production will provide you with the opportunity to judge for yourself. . . [Scott] Miller, who’s also the artistic director of New Line, likes to color outside the lines, and his determination here reveals his passion for bringing fresh and challenging new musicals to the St. Louis region. This might be considered a risky choice, but I’m glad he and the company were willing to take it on, because I might not have gotten the chance to experience it otherwise. . . If you’re looking for something outside the norm, then you should definitely check out New Line’s production of Love Kills.” – Chris Gibson,

“Watching their story unfold through a raw punk-flavored rock score and fine acting on the parts of all four cast members is sublime. The bad boy of musical theatre is gloriously back! . . . Composer Kyle Jarrow defines Love Kills as an ‘emo rock musical,’ and in the sense that it is highly charged and personal, that’s fair. Scott Miller directs with passionate intensity, and it’s among the finest work I’ve seen from this company, which is saying a lot. This isn’t the world’s best musical, but I defy anyone to leave it without much to ponder and plenty to talk about. I hope audiences will give it the attention it deserves.” – Andrea Braun, KDHX-FM

“To open its 19th season New Line Theatre has the good fortune to host the world premiere of Jarrow’s rock musical Love Kills, which tells the grisly story of the multiple spree killings of Starkweather and Fugate in one act and a tidy 95 minutes. . . . New Line’s effort, under the expert guidance of artistic director Scott Miller, features a quartet of terrific performances by Miller’s carefully chosen cast and excellent singing . . . Miller keeps a tight focus on the gritty story throughout, demonstrating a precise ability to handle such sobering drama. . . Given the subject matter, Love Kills is surprisingly fresh and provocative material that immediately grabs audience interest . . . New Line’s world premiere offering of Love Kills provides a memorable evening of pathos and pulsating music that will give you reason to ponder the varying effects of love and violence in surprising fashion.” – Mark Bretz, Laude News

“I had a wonderful surprise at New Line’s production of Love Kills, a world premiere. . . The show bowled me over. It has a very well-crafted story and a powerful score, with more variety than might be expected from a rock score.” – Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle, KDHX-TV

“New Line Theater’s Love Kills is a strange but effective view of a killer and his paramour, and how they became who they are.” – Harry Hamm, KMOX-AM

“Scott Miller directed effectively on what is almost a bare stage, and the trio of Mike Renard on guitar, Dave Hall on base and Mike Schurk on drums was first-rate. An interesting evening and a look at what came out from under a Nebraska rock.” – Joe Pollack, St. Louis Eats and Drinks

Love Kills, directed by Scott Miller, is performed without an intermission, but you won’t even notice because the story is engaging and moves along at a quick pace. It will leave you with plenty to talk about: What would you do in the name of love?” – Gabe Hartwig, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

BEST MUSICAL OF 2009: “I’d like to congratulate both Stages and New Line Theatre for their amazing productions in 2009, especially New Line’s Love Kills, one of the best musical versions of a dramatic (and real-life) story I’ve ever seen.” – Andrea Braun, Playback STL

TOP TEN SHOWS OF 2009: “It would have been easy for Kyle Jarrow to score his tale of killer Charlie Starkweather and Caril Fugate’s incarceration, Love Kills, to a more conventional and period accurate 1950s flavored beat, but that would have softened his characters and weakened the emotional impact overall. Jarrow opts instead for a harder edge that suits the material much better, after all, Charlie isn’t Danny Zuko, he’s a murderer. New Line Theatre brings this dark vision to life under Scott Miller’s taut direction, but it’s the grounded performance of Alison Helmer along with Zachary Allen Farmer’s quiet intensity as Merle, the sheriff, that really makes this piece cook.” – Chris Gibson,

What do we do when children kill?

Both impulse control and empathy are located in the frontal lobe of the brain, and that area does not fully develop till around age 23. Recent research on human brain development also suggests that if a child doesn’t get enough physical affection in the early years, the frontal lobe does not develop at all. And when a person has neither empathy or impulse control, it’s a whole lot easier to kill.

Great. So what do we do with that information? Obviously, violent criminals have to be locked up. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand them, their motivations, their thought processes, and even the psychological or physical damage that may have led them to this point. That’s why we wanted to produce Love Kills. Sometimes the job of theatre is to ask big questions without insisting on any particular answers.

So why choose a story set in 1958 if we want to talk about violence today? Because just like today, the end of the 1950s was a tumultuous time, a turning point in American culture and politics. Just one year after the Starkweather murders, Allen Ginsberg wrote in The Village Voice, “No one in America can know what will happen. No one is in real control. America is having a nervous breakdown.” Sounds like 2009, doesn’t it?

For the last fifty years, American politics has been entirely about a battle between the 1950s (conservatism) and the 1960s (liberalism). In this last election, McCain (the 50s) lost decisively to Obama (the 60s), but one look at cable news tells you the fight isn’t over yet.

Charlie Starkweather was right at the heart of all this in 1958 – he represented everything adults feared about the coming 1960s: rock and roll, drugs, teen sex, teen movies, fast cars, “juvenile delinquents,” in fact, all of teenage culture. To some extent, Love Kills is about this big, ongoing cultural battle, with Charlie and Caril (and their music) representing the chaos and anarchy of the coming 1960s, and Merle and Gertrude as defenders of what’s right and decent and worthy of Eisenhower’s (smothering but ordered) 1950s. Charlie and Caril were the real-life demons that terrified adults in movies like The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause.

But why is that terror still with us? Because we’re not just afraid of crime anymore – we’re afraid of our children, of healthcare, hip-hop, terrorism, the media, race, sex, swine flu, France – you name it, we fear it.

And more than anything else, we still fear and fetishize the Other, first the Communists in the 50s, then the juvenile delinquents, then the Blacks, then the hippies, then the gays, then the rappers, then the Mexicans, then the “terrorists” (i.e., all Arab men), and now some even fear our Black President. But none of it is rational, and all of it will lead to more violence.

If we want to live in peace, we must confront our fear, examine it, name it, and conquer it. Sometimes it’s important to face our demons and stare them down.

Welcome to the jungle.