In May last year, I wrote a blog called 'Macho Musicals'. In it, I listed my five picks of musicals to take a less-than-enthusiastic boyfriend to. In it, I included American Psycho, and I was definitely right to suggest booking early: the run has been sold out, but I was lucky to have booked tickets at the time. I saw the show, which is playing at the Almeida, this week. But did it live up to its macho promise?
I must admit I've never read Bret Easton Ellis's original book or seen the 2000 movie - I've always been too scared. Perhaps, in seeing the musical instead, I hoped that songs might soften some of the murderous edges, or at least help me keep the show at arm's length (I was hoping for the Sweeney Todd effect of gore through a musical gauze!).
I was intrigued to see famous Dr Who, Matt Smith, take on this musical challenge. To my delight, Smith gives a charged and electric performance as Patrick Bateman. For a first time singer, his vocals are tested, but this brings and certain edge to the character and he pulls off the role with more than sufficient sparkle (okay, and his 'buff' body helped soothe a few vocal wobbles). Unsurprisingly, Smith had a fair few fans lined up at stage door, and cooly stayed for a drink in the theatre bar, with 80s tunes pulsating in the background.
Smith and an impressive ensemble
The ensemble deserved the rapturous applause for the slick show. Choreography by Lynne Page, bringing an authentic 80s groove to a demanding modern audience, bred some impressive and strong dancing. Singing elsewhere was good, showcasing tricky harmonies and rough vocals. I particularly fell for Ben Aldridge's Paul Owen as Bateman's irresistible nemesis, and Cassandra Compton as Bateman's secretary, whose voice added genuine beauty to an other wise stark show. The first murder jars into a rather impressive work out scene, that anyone who has seen the show I'm sure will recall...
I adored the re-imagined 80s pop hits, stitched together with a new score by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) which is both haunting and vague (I struggle to recall most of the tunes, but Clean certainly sticks out). I suspect American Psycho might be the only musical to legitimately include a song about business cards!
American Psycho includes a song about business cards...
I've long been a fan of designer Es Devlin- having seen her work across operas and concert stages. Here, her set is one of the finest achievement of the piece; a beautiful, shiny exterior shielding something more sinister. The effortless scene changes bring the offstage swiftly and craftily onstage. Combined with clever sound and lighting design, the production never got too gory, leaving me to actually 'enjoy' it; hurrah!
Kudos to director (and the Almeida's artistic director) Rupert Goold, who brings his experience and love of diverse stage genres to his projects. American Psycho sure makes a cool musical, and one with a diverse audience (including many boyfriends!). Long may new musicals be made, and new audiences sought.