“American Psycho” Takes a Stab at Broadway

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The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre will become the scene of Patrick Bateman’s latest crimes on April 21. (PHOTO BY RACHEL JARVIS/THE OBSERVER)

By ANA FOTA
Arts & Culture Co-Editor

A loud noise and flashing lights scare the audience straight into their seats. The room goes dark and quiet, building suspense. Hearts start racing as theatergoers wait to be taken on a ride riddled with money, greed and blood. From the hardwood floor rises a vertically-placed tanning bed, and on the bed a man, goggles on, his muscles drawing attention away from his white underwear. There he is, in all his homicidal glory: Patrick Bateman. Investment banker by day and serial killer by night, he has become a household name over the years, known simply as the “American Psycho.”

Yes, that’s right. The musical, which transferred to the Great White Way after a sold-out run in London’s West End, has found a new home across the pond in Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. It opens April 21.

Although your first instinct might be to cringe at the idea of a story about a misogynistic serial killer, do not be so quick to judge. The sight of a knife—or the occasional chainsaw—might frighten you, but the techno music, futuristic staging and the ensemble’s robotic routines will keep you entertained. The show’s star-studded cast and creative team, as well as the acclaim it received in London, set the bar penthouse-high.

Starring Benjamin Walker in the title role, the show reunites “Next to Normal”(2008) alumnas Alice Ripley, who won a Tony Award for her role as the mother, and Jennifer Damiano, who was only 17 when she was nominated for a Tony Award in the Best Actress category, for portraying Ripley’s overachieving daughter. Damiano plays Patrick’s secretary, Jean, the only kindhearted character to set foot on that stage, while Ripley acts as the voice of reason in the role of Patrick’s mother. With a score by Duncan Sheik and a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, one thing is certain: you can run, but you can’t hide.

It all started with the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, later adapted into the 1999 movie starring Christian Bale. Now, it is up to Benjamin Walker to strut on stage in Patrick’s designer suits and blood-stained shoes. Walker is no stranger to the Great White Way, having previously starred as the title character in the critically acclaimed “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,”(2010) and alongside Scarlett Johansson in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (2013).

Patrick is an investment banker working in mergers and acquisitions on Wall Street, but it’s his social life that takes the spotlight. He is not portrayed as a typical businessman, but rather as another guy trying to figure out what makes him happy. His obsession with infamous serial killers such as Ted Bundy is made clear throughout the show. He advises his secretary Jean to start wearing heels and skirts because, as he puts it, she’s “prettier than this.” Although the audience learns as the plot progresses that she is secretly in love with him, that storyline is not followed through.

When Patrick is not reciting his soliloquies, he is accompanied by beautiful women, dapper co-workers or both. Whether at parties, in the club or at the beach, they are all dressed to the nines. Song after song, they share about their love of expensive clothing. The all-female performance of “You Are What You Wear” features a techno beat and dancing around the stage. The first act ends with Patrick’s most gruesome killing scene. A clear wall was lowered from the ceiling to keep the blood from splashing the audience.

Although the rest of the characters were portrayed just as void of human emotion as him, the audience was  somehow still supposed to believe that Patrick was worse than the rest of them. It is true that he liked to spend his free time in a particular, more deranged way, but the rest of the characters enjoyed the superficial happiness that came from material possessions just as much. Except for Jean, no other secondary character showed real human emotion. Although Ms. Bateman made a short appearance trying to persuade Patrick into marrying, her character came and went as still another face in the background.

It is natural that by the end of the two hour and 30 minute show, one might feel like they know exactly how Patrick thinks. That does not mean that his actions become predictable—the suspense remains high throughout the thriller musical. Walker does a magnificent job of making you unconsciously root for him to be happy, even though it might mean the deaths of other salesmen. Still, so much emphasis is put on Patrick that none of the other character arcs are explored.

The score left much to be desired. Although the opening tune “Selling Out” was catchy, it did not make up for the lack of diversity throughout the rest of the soundtrack. The following songs blended together in a swamp of techno beats and repetitive lyrics. The staging is spectacular, transporting audiences into the world of Patrick Bateman. White hardwood floors, high-end furniture and designer suits paint the color.less picture of a cruel world. With minimalistic props and gray shades scattered across the walls, the setting seems like a glimpse from the future, although the 30-inch television set and walkman remind the audience of the 1980s timeline.

Flashy L.E.D. lights and graphics projected over panels set in the background remind of an experimental production at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For Broadway, it is edgy and unconventional. Walker’s abs might capture your attention, but his acting will peak your curiosity. Soon, this production will develop a cult following of its own. Be part of the tribe and go see for yourself.