The Wall Street maniac rides again in a musical rich in synth pop and buff bodies, but the meaning of the original novel slides off the slick surroundings
Has there ever been an axe murderer handsomer than Patrick Bateman? Certainly that allure helps to explain the perverse, mordant appeal of American Psycho, Bret Easton Elliss boundary-ramming satire of 80s excess, adapted as a cult movie in 2000 and now appearing as a Broadway musical after an earlier run at the Almeida Theatre in London. A bold and perilous artistic endeavor, this musical is also something of a tonal muddle, approaching the material from myriad angles some serious, some sleazy, some nice, some nasty which dont ultimately form a persuasive whole.
For many in the audience, this will not matter. American Psycho already has its seat in the pop culture pantheon. You can find T-shirts and dolls devoted to Bateman, a muscled specialist in mergers and acquisitions (or, as he prefers it, murders and executions) who likes to dissect girls in his spare time. Much of the crowd at a preview performance seemed ecstatic to see a favorite character enfleshed, especially when that flesh is as ripped as that of Benjamin Walker, the often shirtless Broadway leading man here playing Bateman. In the plays opening moments, in which a victim attempts to escape Batemans clutches, there were hoots, applause, and delighted screams like those that greet a midnight movie. After the show, which concludes on a note of nihilistic despair, groups of banker-ish young men were pausing to take grinning selfies in front of the theatres marquee.
As adapted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, scored by Duncan Sheik, and directed by Rupert Goold, this is an inarguably stylish undertaking and sometimes an exciting one. The set, by Es Devlin, with its white, deliberately narrowed walls and dropped ceiling gives a necessary feeling of claustrophobia. The costumes, by Katrina Lindsay, both celebrate and satirize 80s style, as does Duncan Sheiks somewhat rigid synth pop score. If this seems a little empty, well, thats part of the style and the content, too. Bateman feels only absence where a soul ought to reside. I am not here, I am not there, he sings. I am nobody, I am nowhere.
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