American Psycho: The Musical has a fundamental, irreconcilable problem; Patrick Bateman would love it [listen to the Stages review above on 2SER]
The stage adaptation is yet another attempt to leverage the success of Bret Easton Ellis’ much-read novel; artistically-driven yet still naked commercialism of a kind that would easily find its way into a Bateman monologue. Otherwise obsessed with teasing profundities about 80s culture and capitalism through this Wall Street wannabee/serial killer and a jukebox of hits, one need only read Ellis’ ‘Genesis’ chapter, among many, to garner that Bateman is less interested in the intricacies of these works than (in some of Ellis’ most biting satire) what a surface-level reading can tell us.
The musical, based on the novel but inseparable from the film adaptation in it’s stylistic choices and staging, wants to impress something percipient. That’s not a problem, yet the image of Bateman so earnestly going along with it all wreaks of Christian Bale’s despised moonwalk.
Ellis’ writing is peculiar in how it treats its audience, for we are not Pierce & Pierce Vice-Presidents with whom Bateman wants to “fit in,” but in spite of the monster’s lengthy diatribes simply passive observers. Bateman doesn’t care how he appears when no one is watching and we are no one; it doesn’t matter if we are impressed by him or not, simply that we know that there is a Patrick Bateman. Putting us on the same level as Patrick’s immediate observers whose estimation Bateman conversely values, a near narrative necessity given the stage form, undermines that fundamental to the novel even if it is entertaining.
It’s a notably precipitous time to contrast narratives conveyed through internal monologues with their varied adaptations. The final season of Game of Thrones infamously waning by divesting even further from George R.R. Martin’s intricately staged character narrations, as regards Ellis’ output the chapters Bateman spends in company contrast heavily with his most illustrative and satirically superficial monologues not intended by the author nor his creation to recommend the character.
The film managed a decent balance through use of a voice-over, but the blending of these narrative strands on stage, necessitated by Bateman (Benjamin Gerrard) having to impart just about everything to us by stating it just as he might directly converse with his contemporaries, divests us of insights into how his character operates both in company and unencumbered by oft rendering the forms indistinguishable. The staging would have us think we are as important to Bateman as his contemporaries yet central to his characterisation and just how irrelevant the anonymous masses are to his kind Bateman would just as well have us in his freezer.
On the occasions where the distinction is evident, halting events and dimming the lights so Bateman can lecture us is not nearly so impactful as the fewer, seamless and more subtly recognisable transitions between that internal and outward which are too better reflective of the sparing chapters where Ellis switched things up.
The rotating stage is the best advent of this production, the latest among many not so famous musicals to be given new life at Hayes. Cycling between environments as out of sight characters hastily turn things around for a reveal, conversely the best use of the mechanism is one stationary figure watching on as scenes swap before them.
Gerrard is routinely captivating, inducing laughs at just about every turn even if his performance is conspicuously and too closely modelled on Trump’s mannerisms; Bateman’s obsession with the then tycoon being a minor aspect of the novel with today an altogether different resonance. In one especially memorable fourth wall break he, well, kills it.
Shannon Dooley (as Evelyn) and Blake Appelqvist, taking on multiple roles, are highlights of the production with Appelqvist in particular thrilling with excellent physical comedy and notably receptive timing as regards both audience and colleagues.
A light-filled dance sequence in a club being the best number among several that shine, what is entertaining won’t always crack the surface for fans of the novel and indeed film, a show in respects that Bateman himself might enjoy for the wrong reasons.
The Australian premiere of American Psycho The Musical is Presented by BB-Arts & Two Doors Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co
Book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Music and Lyrics by Tony Award winning Duncan Sheik Based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis
Starring Ben Gerrard as Patrick Bateman, Blake Appelqvist, Erin Clare, Shannon Dooley, Eric James Gravolin, Amy Hack, Loren Hunter, Julian Kuo, Kristina McNamara, Liam Nunan, Daniel Raso
Director Alexander Berlage
Musical Director Andrew Worboys
Choreographer Yvette Lee
Set Designer Isabel Hudson
Costume Designer Mason Browne
Associate Lighting Designer James Wallis
Sound Designer Nicholas Walker
Associate Director Danielle Maas
Stage Manager Brooke Verburg
Stage Manager Lauren Tulloh
Assistant Stage Manager Michael Clark
Associate Designer Emma White