Pop Culture Princess

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Will American Psycho slay on Broadway or become a musical massacre?

Last Friday, I turned on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and one of his guests was Benjamin Walker, who I remember last seeing as the lead in the film version of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Well, turns out that Benjamin has another role that requires him to swing an axe but also lets him sing. He's playing Patrick Bateman on Broadway in American Psycho: The Musical, with music written by Duncan Sheik(yes, the guy who had the 90's one hit wonder, "Barely Breathing").

Granted, this was April Fool's Day, so one might be inclined to think that this was all a joke yet alas, it was all rather serious. Walker and members of the cast performed the opening number from the show,called "Selling Out", and I hate to say it but when Walker stood up on the desk shirtless with his Walkman held up high, he did remind me a little of Christian Grey there and not in a good way(not that there is a good way to have Christian Grey in mind but let's not digress too much):

Since the show is still in previews(the official opening night is April 21), there was a special promotional performance of several other numbers for the press and thankfully, they're all viewable online.

 Believe it or not, one of them is sort of a love song as Bateman's put upon secretary Jean wonders just how romantically inclined her boss is towards her. Well,honey, he's not a hearts and flowers kind of guy,more of a chainsaws and body bags type which does not bode well for a second date.

Now, I have not read the infamous Bret Easton Ellis novel upon which this is based but have watched the 2000 big screen adaptation enough times to look for certain scenes to see just how they would work with music attached to them.

 One of the most memorable sequences from the film has Patrick Bateman and friends in a showdown of business cards and that is given it's very own number here,folks. Just the fact that this song has the refrain "oh,baby,baby..." was enough to get me laughing,which is not good because they don't seem to be playing this for laughs:

The first impressions that I have from watching these clips is that the tone of this version seems to be a bit too straightforward for it's own good. One of the reasons that the film(which was co-written and directed by Mary Harron) worked as well as it did was that sharp threads of social satire were blended into the overall horror of the piece.

 It made watching the gruesome doings of Patrick Bateman more bearable and relatable, not to mention that acidic tang of dark humor lightened the tension created by and surrounding the main character. So far, the only mirth that this Broadway musical take on American Psycho is inspiring from it's potential audience is unintentional.

While I do get why someone would want to turn this into a musical, given Bateman's taste for ranting reviews of pop songs during his murderous sprees, I don't think the folks behind this production really understand Bateman's true self.

He's a shallow sociopath who uses mainstream pop music as a way to sound meaningful and more connected to the world than he actually is. Composer Duncan Sheik has said that he chose to use techno music as a way to express Patrick's "soullessness" but that just seems like an overly obvious method to portray that aspect.

To be fair, Sheik did win a few Tonys for the musical Spring Awakening a few years ago, so he's not inexperienced in this field and he did say that he read the original novel,which is something that I haven't done and probably won't do. Still, I can't help feeling that a major ingredient is missing from this singalong stew that won't match up to the humorous horrifying flavor of it's cinematic original recipe:

Maybe I'm wrong about this but I can't shake my doubts off. I get the same bad feeling about American Psycho: The Musical that I did from those Batman V Superman trailers and we all know how that turned out.

Believe me, I don't want to jinx the cast and crew yet the London production did get mixed reviews at best. The show does have some time left to make adjustments before opening night but that might not be much of a help either. This just feels bad, like Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark bad or Carrie:The Musical awful.

 Guess we'll have to wait and see, only I wouldn't be making any fancy restaurant reservations for this American Psycho-it might be a better night to return some video tapes instead:

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