I saw this musical on Broadway on 5/9. I'm a big fan of the movie (it was on my first Top Five list, in 2000). The book is the one book I've read that I wish I had no read - - there are a few unbelievably disturbing images that will be seared in my brain until the day I die.
The show had a lot going for it: a sold-out run in London this winter, songs by Duncan Sheik, and Benjamin Walker in the lead role. It was a mixed bag.
Duncan Sheik is the perfect choice to write a musical of *American Psycho* - - he won the Tony for his fabulous score to *Spring Awakening*, and his mixture of rock drive and Broadway emotion seemed perfect for this story. The music was great, but oh Lord, sometimes his lyrics were so awful! So inane, so dreadful, so disappointing. NOW HIRING: lyricist for his next show. He should not be permitted to write his own lyrics.
I want to acknowledge the man who did the vocal arrangements, David Shrubsole. Expertly done, dazzling and perfect. His slick and novel arrangement of "Happy birthday, Patrick Bateman" was a treat, I might be playing it at my 50th birthday party. They included a few songs from the 80s in delicious Shrubsole arrangements. The best was "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins. Unfortunately that turned out to be a musical highlight of the show, which I imagine is not what Sheik had in mind.
Sheik and book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa made the wise choice to capture the satirical tone of the movie, rather than the nihilistic tone of the book. The cleverness and snideness made me think this was actually a downtown show done with a big budget on Broadway. The first act was fun, and had the stale flatness of a 1980's music video, it perfectly captured the period. The second act went deeper, as Patrick goes deeper into his psychosis. The musical Patrick Bateman, even more than the Patrick Bateman of the movie, feels intense anxiety not about the uncounted murders, but because he has gotten away with them. I don't remember the Patrick Bateman of the book feeling much of anything.
The set design was by Es Devlin. For those of you who read the New Yorker, there was a fascinating profile of her a few weeks ago. Her design for the show was brilliant, she nailed the high style, sterile environment, and she laid out the space to have the flexibility to become various locations through the show. The video design by Finn Ross was also a big hit.
The best element in the show, by far, was Benjamin Walker as Patrick Bateman. He has a strong, handsome voice that slices through the synthetic texture of the songs. His speaking voice is delightfully melodious, sounds great when delivering lines like this:
"In the morning if my face is a little puffy I'll put on a an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do 1000 now. After I remove the ice pack I use a deep poor cleanser lotion. In the shower I use a water-activated gel cleanser, then a honey almond body scrub, and on the face an exfoliating gel scrub. Then I apply an herb-mint facial mask which I leave on for ten minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use an after shave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older."
He has the Ken doll good looks and astonishing bod needed for the part, what the opera crowd calls the "physique du role".