American Psycho: The Musical
Music and Lyrics by Duncan Sheik
Directed by Alexander Berlage
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 3 July.
Reviewed by LEN POWER 30 June 2021
If you can make a musical out of “American Psycho”, you can make a musical out of anything.
Based on the best-selling and controversial 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis, it focuses on a young, handsome and wealthy investment banker, Patrick Bateman, in New York City during the Wall Street boom of the 1980s. This man also happens to be a serial killer.
While the book gave shockingly detailed descriptions of the young killer’s murderous actions, the musical focusses more on life in the prosperous decade that enabled young, successful people like Bateman to indulge in chic restaurants, exclusive clubs and designer labels.
Bateman and his friends involve themselves in hollow competitiveness to the point of desperation. His serial killing allows him to let off steam from his increasingly frantic and unsatisfying existence. It’s satirical and funny but also very dark and disturbing.
|Ben Gerrard (centre) and the company|
Director and lighting designer, Alexander Berlage, has given us a visually exciting, fast-moving and colourful production that cleverly recreates the world of the 1980s and its beautiful but shallow people.
The music and lyrics of Duncan Sheik have been augmented in this production by classic 80s hits in a cleverly cohesive and unique sound design by Nicholas Walker. The songs successfully create an atmosphere but are not memorable themselves.
The high energy choreography of Yvette Lee gives the right feeling of the dance moves of the 80s. Mason Browne has provided the cast with striking and often bizarrely effective period costumes.
Ben Gerrard gives a memorable performance in the marathon
role of Patrick Bateman, deftly showing every facet of this complex, intriguing
and frightening character.
|Ben Gerrard as Patrick Bateman dressed to kill|
Angelique Cassimatis is nicely appealing as his secretary, Jean, the only really normal character in the story. Shannon Dooley is a delight as Bateman’s glamorous but unpleasantly demanding girlfriend, Evelyn, and Jason Winston gives depth to Paul Owen’s smarmy but dashing competitiveness. There is excellent work by every other cast member in multiple roles.
The first half of the show works better than the second half. Soul-searching moments by some of the characters seem unnecessary and slow the pace down and the constantly revolving set and flashing lights become tiresome.
The Broadway production that I saw in 2016 was awash with gore but the blood-letting in this production is quite restrained. It was a wise choice, allowing us to use our imaginations on the details instead.
Like its characters of the 1980s, you’ll be seduced by the spectacular surface qualities that “American Psycho” offers.
Photos by Daniel Boud
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.
This review is also published in Len Power’s blog ‘Just Power Writing’ at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.