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‘American Psycho’: He Works in Murders and Executions

April 21st, 2016 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

'American Psycho' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

‘American Psycho’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Patrick Bateman is back. Perhaps you remember him as the narrator of Bret Easton Ellis’s provocative 1991 novel, American Psycho, and the equally notorious 2000 film, starring Christian Bale. Bateman’s a 26-year-old, homophobic, misogynistic, sexually carnivorous, materialistic, narcissistic, anti-Semitic, greedy, perfectly attired, brand name-obsessed, sadistic Wall Street investment banker who also happens to be a serial killer. He has a particular taste for stabbing, slicing, eviscerating, dismembering, and decapitating hot young women, with whose gory remains he may copulate before disposing of them in some disgusting way, including digestively.

The evil Patrick Bateman (Benjamin Walker, stardom-bound) may not be your typical Broadway hero but his tale, an icily satiric attack on the soulless superficiality and selfishness of American consumer culture during the Wall Street boom of the late 1980s (what’s past is present), has been made into a high-tech, rock musical (following a hit 2013 London production) by book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) and composer/lyricist Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening). Its strikingly cool staging is by Rupert Goold (King Charles III).

'American Psycho' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

‘American Psycho’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Aguirre-Sacasa’s book hews faithfully to Easton’s novel while making numerous cuts, changes, and additions. Major scenes are reimagined for dance, like “Cards,” a number in which Bateman and his vapid friends compare the relative quality of their business cards; others, like the big police chase scene, are banished. The Les Misérables and homeless people material remain to remind us of the one percent’s disdain for the down and out. Bastard that he is, however, this American psycho nevertheless gains a thimbleful of sympathy; Easton’s ambiguous “did he or didn’t he actually do it” door remains open, the author’s own claims to the contrary.

Easton’s readers will be anxious to know how a Broadway musical could possibly express the novel’s nauseatingly precise scenes of violence and hyper-pornography; like the movie, the staging (albeit differently) lets the audience imagine much of it. Oceans of blood may be splashed (a scrim to protect the first rows drops before Paul Owen [Drew Moerlein] is axed open) and Patrick may get it on with a pair of bimbos but everything’s necessarily been aestheticized. During his ménage à trois (or quatre, since a stuffed animal’s involved), childlike sex cartoons, like those on bathroom walls, are seen, rendering them harmless, even amusing. Nudity is eschewed in favor of underwear; in fact, the impressively buff Walker spends lots of time in expensive skivvies.

'American Psycho' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

‘American Psycho’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

As appropriate in a work emphasizing depersonalization—people are always mistaking one person for another—only Bateman has any dimensionality. One problem is the story’s essential plotlessness; we watch his insatiable appetites snowball as he seeks the trendiest restaurants and clubs, food and drink, clothes and accessories, as well as the hottest women, goriest splatter flicks (those videotapes he always has to return), hippest music (that Sony Walkman), and most potent drugs. Laughs abound, but often in response to the topical name dropping of once-popular places, like Tunnel, or now dated technology, like 30-inch TV sets. Easton’s book can be like reading a Sears Roebuck catalogue of 80s’ consumerism.

American Psycho is a narrative of escalation, the chief conflict being internal as Bateman wrestles with his guilt, thus necessitating his first-person narration; monotony sometimes looms. The other characters, like Bateman’s insipid businessman buddies or his rich bitch airhead bedmates, Evelyn (Helene Yorke) and Courtney (Morgan Weed), exist mainly as reflections of his own shallow values. Only Bateman’s shy, naïve, love-hungry secretary, Jean (Jennifer Damiano), garners sympathy, but she’s interesting only as the potential victim we want most not to be harmed. The talented Alice Ripley (Next to Normal) plays several older women, one being Bateman’s mother, but none are especially noteworthy.

Lynne Page’s choreography makes excellent use of the 80s’ electro-pop club music that informs much of Sheik’s beat-heavy score, fun to hear but little of it more than momentarily memorable; it’s supplemented, though, by infusions of actual 80s’ hits from Huey Lewis and the News, Phil Collins, New Order, Tears For Fears, and others. Es Devlin’s sleek, adaptable scenery, using two revolves, combines thrillingly with the incredible lighting effects of Justin Townsend and the kaleidoscopic, wall-blanketing video designs of Finn Ross. Katrina Lindsay’s costumes make 80s sartorial excess look good again.

Like Matt Smith, of TV’s “Dr. Who,” who won raves as London’s Patrick Bateman, Broadway’s Benjamin Walker walks the walk, talks the talk, looks the look, sings the songs, and dances the dances. Resistance to him, I’m afraid, is futile. This guy kills it.

American Psycho
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
230 West 45th Street, NYC
Open run

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

Theater Buff: ‘American Psycho”s Anthony Sagaria

April 20th, 2016 Comments off

Every month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out editor Matthew Wexler’s nosey little questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. We’re losing our minds over this month’s sexy buff, Anthony Sagaria, now appearing in the highly anticipated musical American Psycho.

Anthony Sagaria (Photo: Jordan Matter via The Broadway Blog.)

Anthony Sagaria (Photo: Jordan Matter via The Broadway Blog.)

Name:
Anthony Sagaria

Hometown:
Centerville, Ohio

Do you think Broadway is ready for a musical bloodbath?
Completely. This show is dark, hilarious, bloody, and certain aspects are eerily relevant to today’s society. It’s the perfect time for this show to be making its way to Broadway.

You’re covering five roles in American Psycho — what was the audition process like and do you have a favorite?
The audition process wasn’t too bad actually. I read for one role, got called back to dance for a different role, and then at final callbacks read for both of them. All of that took about a week, and then a month and a half later, I got the call. As for a favorite part, they are all incredible in their own way. The P&P boys (Patrick Bateman’s friends) are probably my favorite, though.

American Psycho is set in the late 80s / early 90s – what is some of your favorite music from that era?
So much good music was being written at that time—from Queen to Michael Jackson, Tears for Fears to Genesis, Radiohead to Run-DMC. The list just goes on and on.

Anthony Sagaria (Photo: Lindsay Hoffman via The Broadway Blog.)

Anthony Sagaria (Photo: Lindsay Hoffman via The Broadway Blog.)

American Psycho’s lead character, Patrick Bateman, is known for his materialistic tendencies. If you had unlimited funds to fill your medicine cabinet with grooming products or closet with high-end fashions, what might we find?
A closet of well-tailored, good looking suits with ties, cufflinks, dress shoes, and shirts. A well-tailored suit can get you in just about anywhere.

If I wasn’t a performer…
I would be in marketing using my creative side to convince you to buy things you might not necessarily need.

Anthony Sagaria (Photo: Brittney Callahan via The Broadway Blog.)

Anthony Sagaria (Photo: Brittney Callahan via The Broadway Blog.)

Places, Intermission or Curtain Call? 
Places. The energy backstage while waiting for the house lights to dim is incredible.

The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at:
It’s a toss up between Glass House Tavern on 47th Street and Betti Bar at the Hourglass Tavern on 46th Street.

After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to:
The Thirsty Koala, in Astoria, which has incredible Australian food or Black Tap in SoHo for the craziest milkshakes you’ve ever seen.

If I could live anywhere else in the world it would be:
Italy or London.

My workout “secret” is:
Simply get to the gym. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes, those 10 minutes will eventually turn into 20 and then 30 and so on. Getting motivated to get off the couch and go to the gym is the hardest part.

When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
Confidence and originality. If you’re happy with who you are, the rest comes easy.

My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of is:
You’ve probably heard of it, but as a music lover it is Pitchfork.com.

Anthony Sagaria (Photo: Damon Condon via The Broadway Blog.)

Anthony Sagaria (Photo: Damon Condon via The Broadway Blog.)

People would be surprised to learn that…
I am an amusement park fanatic. Nothing’s better than getting a group of friends together and going to Six Flags, Cedar Point, Disney World, etc.

When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
My dad. He has a gorgeous voice, can figure out how to fix anything, and is one hell of a hard worker.

Ten years from now I’d like to be:
Still acting and giving people reasons to support the arts.

American Psycho is currently playing at Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th Street.

Recap: Duncan Sheik at Carnegie Hall

November 28th, 2015 Comments off

by Ryan Leeds

Duncan Sheik (photo: Lexi Lambros via The Broadway Blog.)

Duncan Sheik (photo: Lexi Lambros via The Broadway Blog.)

No one can accuse singer-songwriter, Duncan Sheik, of being a slacker. Between the release of his latest solo album, Legerdamain, the work he’s done on Broadway’s current revival of his Tony- and Grammy Award-winning musical Spring Awakening, the final touches he’s putting on his next Broadway venture, American Psycho, and a recent concert tour, Sheik is not letting the proverbial dust collect at his feet.

On Saturday, November 21, Sheik took to the stage at Carnegie Hall to kick off WFUV 90.7 FM’s Live at Zankel series. With his band, consisting of a bassist/cello player, drummer, and pianist, Sheik opened with 2 somber numbers from  his latest release. Clad in semi-casual black garb and standing at the keyboard, Sheik  promised his audience that, “it will get more exciting as the evening goes on.” He then shared about visiting a small English town and taking daily jogs, an experience which inspired his next song “Summer Mourning.”

With the help of the current cast of Spring Awakening, Sheik presented two numbers from that show, “Mama Who Bore Me” and “I Don’t Do Sadness.” Picking up the tempo, he played a cut from the latest album “Photograph” and dedicated it to Nora. “Hopefully  I won’t f*** it up,” he mused.

Stage star Jennifer Damiano joined him in two selections promoting American Psycho: “Seduction” and “A Girl Before.” Damiano will play leading lady, Jean. Assuming the leading man role of Patrick Bateman (which will be played by Benjamin Walker), Sheik joked that he’d have to work on his abs. Both numbers perfectly embody the psychological eeriness captured in novelist and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis’s commentary on wealth and greed. Audiences will have the chance to hear the full score when the tuner opens on Broadway in March. Sheik closed the show with another piece from the show, “This is not an Exit.”

Other selections from his new album included “Bicycle Thief,” “Distant Lovers,” “Birmingham,” and the album’s final cut, “So There.”

Alice By Heart is yet another stage show to which Sheik is attached, along with his Spring Awakening writing partner Steven Sater. The show, a darker look at the classic Alice in Wonderland story premiered in London in 2012, and Sheik hinted that New Yorkers may  see a commercial production at MCC Theater.

True to his roots and his fan base, Sheik concluded the evening with, “Barely Breathing”—the song that propelled him to the top of the pop charts in the late 90s.

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

Breaking: ‘American Psycho’ Heads to Broadway

July 24th, 2015 Comments off

psycho

Things will be getting devilishly creepy on Broadway in 2016. The producers of the new musical American Psycho are pleased to announce the show will make its Broadway premiere this season with previews set to start Friday, February 19, 2016 and an official opening night on Monday, March 2, 2016 at a Shubert Theatre to be announced. Rehearsals will begin on Monday, January 11, 2016. The production will star Benjamin Walker (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) as Patrick Bateman.

Living the high life in 1980s Manhattan, Patrick Bateman has it all – looks, money, style and status.  He and his entourage buy the most expensive designer clothes, eat at the most exclusive restaurants and party at the hottest clubs.  But privately, Patrick indulges in another kind of transgression. And people—including those closest to him—keep disappearing.

American Psycho has music and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Duncan Sheik, making this his first new show to come to Broadway since his Tony Award-winning Spring Awakening. The show has a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Spiderman: Turn off the Dark, ”Glee”) and is based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis.   Rupert Goold (King Charles III, Macbeth) directs and choreography is by Lynne Page (La Cage Aux Folles, A Little Night Music).

Benjamin Walker (photo: lev radin/shutterstock.com)

Benjamin Walker (photo: lev radin/shutterstock.com)

“I’ve been a huge fan of Ben’s work on stage and screen and am really looking forward to working with him on American Psycho,” said Rupert Goold. “He is an enormous talent and I think audiences will be utterly seduced by his dangerous charisma and extraordinary stage presence.  He’ll make a killer Patrick Bateman.”

 “Ever since Ben ignited the musical theatre with his startling and superb performance in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, I had hoped to work with him again,” said Jeffrey Richards. “When Jerry Frankel and I were offered the opportunity to join David Johnson and Jesse Singer of Act 4 Entertainment in presenting American Psycho, my first thought was that the most charismatic and sexy actor for the role of Patrick Bateman would be…Benjamin Walker.  The gift of collaborative partners is that we were all in agreement…and so for that matter, as I found out, was the entire creative team.”

American Psycho had its world premiere at the Almeida Theatre in London from December 3, 2013 through February 1, 2014. That sold-out production was presented by The Almeida Theatre and Headlong in association with Act 4 Entertainment (David Johnson & Jesse Singer).