Did it ever occur to you that murder and its kin, murderous thoughts, could be funny?
If not, watching American Psycho-The Musical, at the Schoenfeld
in an open run, now closing June 5th,** will likely give you a case of the giggles. This is the intended effect of the musical based on Bret Easton Ellis’s bestseller, published in 1991. The show, like the novel, is a satirical look at ’80s excesses, at least among the privileged class of New York Masters-of-the-Universers. Those excesses include killing off those who dis you, or whom you deslike.
Patrick Bateman (Benjamin Walker) in all his glory and fancy suits is still insecure enough to have to list his possessions by their labels. Brandishing name brands is a constant in American Psycho‘s send-up of consumerism. The song, “You are what you wear,” performed by most of the ladies of the cast, is one excellently placed example. Duncan Sheik’s music and lyrics are catchy and clever. The book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is breezy and well-wrought.
Bateman associates with members of his own preppy-yuppie group, although he feels his exceptionalism. He may think outside their box, but he is not immune to the narrow yet competitive group think. Bateman’s signature song, “Not a common man,”is not presented without irony. His secretary, Jean (Jennifer Damiano), believes she knows and understands him, perhaps because she is in love with him.
Bateman’s girlfriend, Evelyn Williams (Helene Yorke) and her best friend, Courtney Lawrence (Morgan Weed), like most of Bateman’s circle, stay in the shallow-end. Their thoughts are aptly expressed in musical numbers like “At the end of an Island” or, for the boys in the crew, “Hardbody.”
Walker carries the show, narrating, singing and dancing, with gusto and revealing inner turmoil even in his physicality. His crazy has many layers and a great deal of subtlety. Lynne Page’s choreography gives this character’s meltdown a palpable reality.
A standout in the large cast, which includes Alice Ripley in a few smallish roles, is Drew Moerlein as Bateman’s nemesis, Paul Owen. Moerlein’s superb dance moves and aggressiveness inspire and challenge Bateman to ever greater combativeness. Rupert Goold directs the ensemble through the darkness in American Psycho with a light touch.
Is it ironic that the minimalist-in-the-extreme sets, by Es Devlin, were one of the two TONY nominations that American Psycho garnered? The other nomination was for Justin Townsend’s dynamic lighting. The hardrocking star, who really should have gotten a nod, got no recognition.
On the face of it, a musicalization of American Psycho begs a “what were they thinking?” On the stage, that question is answered by an uncompromisingly entertaining production.
For more informaton, and tickets, visit the AP-The Musical website.
**The first to fall to underwhelming TONY nominations, AP The Musical experienced losses of over 8million dollars for its backers. RIP, Patrick etal.