You’ll die laughing at the satirical 80s throwback American Psycho the musical, but the visual and sound aspects elevate this show beyond mere kitsch.
American Psycho has had an unusual journey as a pop culture franchise. Bret Easton Ellis’ original 1991 novel was a savagely reviewed, career-ruining disaster that drew a boycott from the National Organization of Women for its extreme sexual violence. The book was reconsidered after its well-received 2000 movie version, a clever satire on male toxicity that helped popularize then-young stars Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Chloë Sevigny, and Jared Leto. A 2013 musical stage version, with music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik, enjoyed sold-out shows and had its run extended in its London premiere, but the Broadway transfer died a quick death and closed quickly in 2016. Now American Psycho: The Musical splatters it special magic at the Victoria Theatre through June 8, a Ray of Light Theatre production that indulges the audience with dynamite technical treats, and far less misogyny or pornography than its book and film predecessors.
American Psycho is set in the 1980s, but is not a standard retro jukebox musical. There are a couple of 80s pop tunes that sneak in as numbers (though these are are hauntingly rescored) and the Casey Kasem “American Top 40” broadcast that plays before the show is an absolute chef’s-kiss touch. The mostly original tunes are composed in a synthpop style that’s more beautiful than slapstick, though this is still a musical comedy, and its costumes and choreography are striking.
Every review I have ever written of a Victoria Theatre show contains at least one complaint about the poor sound quality. After all, the place is 111 years old. But sound designer Jerry Girard and engineer Anton Headman somehow crafted a flawless sound experience in that theater that allows you to comprehend every word of the extremely funny lyrics. A series of dazzling video projections by Erik Scanlon and Patrick Nims steals the show, and gives this 80s indulgence a truly timeless feel.
In the role of pernicious protagonist Patrick Bateman, Kipp Glass is adequately ripped, tall, and can deliver a mean sardonic soliloquy. Kyle Ewalt shows tremendous comic gifts as his Wall Street rival Paul Owen. One could find fault with a lack of strong female characters, but really, this play lacks any strong characters. They’re all horrible, self-obsessed people, and the fun lies in laughing at the horribleness of the ultra-rich so we can feel better about ourselves for not being rich and horrible.
American Psycho: The Musical is obviously not something you would take your parents to, but it’s actually a totally fine first date show. The misogyny and sexual content are toned way down, and it takes a surprisingly long time to get to the first murder. This show is certainly one of the better technical accomplishments the Victoria seen in recent years, but even though show skillfully reimagines the 1980s, you can’t really do cocaine in the theater’s bathrooms.
'American Psycho' plays through June 8 at the Victoria Theatre. Find tickets here