Off-Broadway powerhouse Second Stage will present the U.S. premiere of the much praised (and much debated) American Psycho, the musical adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel (and 2000 Christian Bale-starring film) about excess, murder and flashing the right labels. The show — with music by Duncan Sheik, book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, staging by Rupert Goold and a starring performance by Matt “Dr. Who” Smith — opened last December at London’s Almeida Theatre and was considered a shoo-in for Broadway next season. It still may be.
For now, however, the show will begin performances in February 2015 and open in March at Second Stage’s West 43rd Street home base. It will be mounted in association with Act 4 Entertainment by special arrangement with Edward R. Pressman (who produced the film). Act 4 is a Los Angeles-based film and new media development company founded by David Johnson and committed to projects that “motivate and inspire audiences across the world toward social action.”
That’s a challenge for the Ellis novel, which prompted furious protests from feminist and human rights groups in reaction to its explicit, play-by-play depiction of the brutal torture and murder of women at the hands of protagonist Patrick Bateman, which the book’s defenders insisted was satire of a society gone mad with material obsession and moral vacuity. The musical has inspired almost inevitable comparisons to Sweeney Todd.
Erstwhile pop star Sheik wrote the terrific score for Spring Awakening. Aguirre-Sacasa was a Second Stage playwright in residence, has written for Glee and Big Love and is Chief Creative Officer for Archie Comics, though on Broadway he’s probably best known as the book-writer who couldn’t save Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark. Goold, artistic director of the acclaimed Almeida, staged Enron, a hit in London that flopped on Broadway, as well as Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart, which was presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Made In Dagenham, opening in October on the West End.
The Almeida production of American Psycho prompted mostly favorable reviews along with some dissenting voices: “Goold’s production [has] a cool wit that actually enhances the story’s satire,” wrote Michael Billington in The Guardian. “Sheik’s music also evokes Bateman’s Eighties pop icons, such as Phil Collins, and provides an ironic commentary on the action. Instead of stand-alone songs Sheik gives us music that reflects the world the characters inhabit…This is a show that confirms the mythic power of Easton Ellis’s story and leaves us all dangerously entertained.”
Charles Spencer, in The Telegraph, demurred: Sheik, he wrote, had told an interviewer that he initially thought it ” ‘was the worst idea for a musical ever.’ I rather agree, but although I cordially disliked this show, I suspect it is going to be a big hit and that a transfer to either the West End or Broadway is inevitable, especially since it stars the soon to be retired Doctor Who, Matt Smith as the psychotic Patrick Bateman…You could sense the audience lapping up this empty mixture of ironic style and sudden moments of violence, and there is no doubt that Rupert Goold’s production is smart and sharp. But like the novel on which it is based, it is also glib, heartless and pretentious.”
No casting has been announced for the Second Stage production.