By: Heather Seebach
In 2013, Bret Easton Ellis' controversial novel-turned-movie American Psycho became a musical stage show on London's West End. Doctor Who star Matt Smith took on the role of the unhinged Wall Street investment banker Patrick Bateman along with an original collection of songs by Duncan Sheik.
Now, American Psycho: The Musical has come to New York City with a Broadway production starring Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). The story follows the life of a 27-year-old Wall Street elite who grows weary of his life and is taken over by thoughts of torture, depraved sexual acts, and murder.
The concept may seem bizarre but Psycho is certainly not the first horror tale turned musical - productions of Evil Dead the Musical are still popping up across the US and Canada. Whereas that one turned the source material into an all-out comedy, this one sticks to the dark, existential mood of Ellis' book and Mary Harron's film adaptation.
The songs are a bit jarring in their cheesinest at first but the production soon lulls you into its dark sense of humor. Psycho is a hyper-zeitgeist of 1980s culture and Wall Street narcissism. When pinstriped-suited investors start strutting across the conference room table as they brag in song about business cards, it becomes apparent just how well-suited to a musical this story actually is.
The original songs are enhanced by eclectic and impressive dancing (often robotic in nature, as you'd expect of this decade). Between the original numbers, there is a fantastic synth score that just screams 80s horror! Furthermore, the show incorporates 80s classics like Phil Collins and, of course, Huey Lewis and the News.
Even more impressive than the musical numbers is the set design. From Bateman's sterile white apartment to the neon explosion of a NYC nightclub, it all nails the world of Wall Street vice and 80s pop culture. The stage incorporates a rotating floor which is used to great effect when creating tableaus, as human beings become mannequin-like in the eyes of Patrick Bateman.
Much of the set is made up of digital screens, giving off not only a very 80s vibe but also allowing for a better glimpse into Bateman's disturbed mind. When his mental tether finally snaps, the white set becomes a horror show with panels awash in red.
So too are the costumes and the color scheme deliberate and effective. From Armani suits and Gucci dresses to blood-spattered tighty-whities, it all brilliantly captures the deranged brain of a man fueled by vanity, cocaine, and bloodlust.
In the lead role, Benjamin Walker does a fine job. He uses a bit of Christian Bale's take on the role (as fans will want) without completely copying the performance. He has the cold deadness in his eyes in just the right moments as Bateman should.
Still, some of Walker's co-stars often steal the show away. Patrick's girlfriend Evelyn has a much more expanded role in this show than she did in the film, and actress Helene Yorke is amazing. Her comedic instinct steals every scene she is in. So too does Theo Stockman as Patrick's douchebag colleague Tim Price leave the audience in stitches.
American Psycho: The Musical will not be everyone's cup of tea but for fans of the book and/or movie it should not be missed. Blood and music will always blend well - Little Shop of Horrors and Sweeney Todd are classics, afterall. If you like your blend with a sick sense of humor and some nihilistic philosophy, too, then there is an ax with your name on it. Return those video tapes and get yourself to the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater.