As seen on Theatre People
Book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Music and Lyrics by Duncan Sheik, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Alexander Berlage.
The novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis is a tale that is becoming more relevant as our modern world progresses. The novel’s imagery and ideas are considered among the most dangerous in literature, either sold covered in plastic shrink-wrap or banned from sale altogether. The 2000 film adaptation that most of us know, starring Christian Bale, brought the tale of hedonistic self-satisfaction and ritualistic capitalism to a wider audience. Then came the musical, soaring in London’s West End and closing after only 54 performances on the Broadway stage.
Director Alexander Berlage’s production excavates the multiple facets of the musical’s source material, choosing to bring us into the mindset of its antagonist, Patrick Bateman. Pairing Berlage’s lighting design with Isabel Hudson’s set design was a genius choice from the production team; the revolving, mirrored, neon-lit set becomes its own entity within the world of the show. A multitude of characters that enter and exit into Bateman’s mind at random, and images that bring tension into the air, coerce the audience to question who Bateman believes himself to be. One such example is seeing Bateman stand in the corner of the set, three images of him reflected clearly. To say the least, the visuals are inspired.
Ben Gerrard’s Patrick Bateman doesn’t borrow from the more toned-down, scowling Bale version, instead he brings a sadistically camp, voyeuristic and licentious approach. The moments when Gerrard revels in the gruesome satisfaction of exterminating his victims brings the audience to a grinding pause. With Nicholas Walker’s sound design inflating the tension through the steady pace of a heartbeat, we feel quite literally in the firing line of Bateman’s spree. Gerrard delivers a performance that is unforgiving, narcissistic, and devoid of empathy; the masterful storytelling shows us the ugliest side of capitalism on offer in theatres today.
For those wanting a traditional musical with a resonating score, this isn’t that show. For one, there is no band. What’s more, the production itself develops its own soundtrack as jarring as Bateman’s own mind. Music director Andrew Warboys plays with the cover songs from the period with a childish glee as they are turned on their head to be heard as Bateman hears them. Meanwhile, the electronic based melting pot of sounds creates a cohesive design that winds in and out of the show, revealing more about Bateman or advancing the plot. With Worboys’ booming, synthetic soundscape erupting throughout the playhouse, it was difficult at times to make out the quick fired lines of dialogue that came from Gerrard. Conversely, the show’s most powerful moment came from pure silence and acting intent.
As with most modern musicals, the show is supported by a stellar ensemble that pull at the edges in, out and around of the macabre tale. Shannon Dooley’s Evelyn Williams is enjoyably indulgent and over-the-top; it’s hard not to see the subtle reflection of fashion influencers as they would have been in the 80’s coming through.
Angelique Cassimatis’ Jean is the most grounded and relatable character throughout the production. Bringing the audience into Patrick’s world through her honest and misplaced love is complemented through her smooth, rich vocals.
The supporting cast members (Erin Clare, Amy Hack, Mark Hill, Kristina McNamara, Liam Nunan, Daniel Raso, Tom Sharah and Jason Winston) provide committed performances throughout the production as they chop and change through Mason Browne’s exuberantly designed costumes to bring us characters you love to detest.
Working with Yvette Lee’s choreography brought allure, hedonism and bile to the cast’s movements. The visuals created by Lee were, again, well in tune with the layered source material.
American Psycho: The Musical is one of those productions that is suited in the hands of an independent theatre company who is not afraid to take risks, show flesh and reflect the worst of society in its main characters. While it failed to make the desired mark on Broadway, in the masterful bloody hands of this production team the material soars. A show for your frail Grandma, this is not.
American Psycho: The Musical is now playing at the Sydney Opera House from 3rd June – 27th June, 2021 before going on tour. See the website for full tickets and information.
Director Alexander Berlage
Choreographer Yvette Lee
Musical Director Andrew Worboys
Set Designer Isabel Hudson
Costume Designer Mason Browne
Sound Designer Nick Walker
Lighting Associate James Wallis
Producers Bradley Barrack & Spencer Bignell
Production Manager Marcus Kelson
Assistant Stage Manager Brooke Verburg
About the author
Justin is an actor, writer, teacher and European tour guide. Justin has developed his writing for publishers such as Theatre People and ArtsHub. His past theatre credits include directing Stiles and Drew’s Soho Cinders, the ‘brave’ Sir Robin in Spamalot for Arcadians Theatre and the French Taunter/Tim in Spamalot for Springers UK, and his debut role as Muldoon in Jurassic: That is One Big Pile of Musical. As the years have gone by, Justin has taken a great interest in swallowing as much theatre as he can and bringing it to the masses through the establishment of Theatre Thoughts.