Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho is a tale of the modern world gone horribly wrong, with lots of murder, insanity, and product placement. It frequently reaches lists of “the most disturbing books ever” for reasons Jonathan will never allow me to elaborate upon, and it may very well be one of the best novels published since I was born 24 years ago. So, you may well ask, why am I covering it here, of all places? Well, it’s now got a musical, the musical’s premiering in the West End, and it stars The Doctor. Yes, really. Matt Smith plays Patrick Bateman in this musical.
The production is based at the Almeida Theatre in London, and is set to run until, at least, February 2, and is sold out until then. The show mixes new songs from Spring Awakening‘s Duncan Sheik, including what may be the only song about business cards ever written, with 80s pop standards like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” several of which, most notably “Hip to Be Square,” were discussed in the text of the novel. So, one may ask: is it really any good? Well, reviews are mixed, to say the least, and, since I can’t get to the Almeida in time for the show, and can only hope it’s well-received enough to make it across the pond.
It should be noted that the songs and Matt Smith’s performance were pretty well-received. The Arts Desk said he’s “proffering an increasingly anxious and self-loathing narcissist who, far from meeting his comeuppance, represents just the sort of unknowable charmer who may walk among us still, attracting both sexes along the way… if Smith isn’t much of a singer (let’s just say one wouldn’t pay to see his Billy Bigelow), the Doctor Who star’s somewhat off-kilter sound is perfect for Bateman’s own sidelong glance at the society he wants to send to the slaughterhouse”. The Independent added: “compelling Patrick is more opaque and much less manic than Christian Bale in Mary Harron’s excellent movie”.
Matt Smith has said of his singing: “I’ve never sang before so it was a full zero to trying to sing in seven weeks so I just thought it was a remarkable challenge. I had a go and you do the best you can do. There’s a Brazilian family downstairs and the woman is called Camilla and she is a singer and was really cool about it, she would say, ‘I heard you singing today!’” And he’s said of his opening scene in the play: “Its kind of cool, there’s something sort of superhero-ish about it which is fun. But I shouldn’t really be drinking this beer, it’s not good for the tighty whities.”
He even tied in Patrick Bateman with his other famous role: “He carries two things, both of which are Doctor Who-eqse, I guess. One is that there’s something a bit other, a bit alien about him which is important. But he also has incredible soulfulness and a vulnerability about him. He [as Patrick Bateman] says awful things and does even worse things and you sort of care about him.”
Well, I’ve only got the reviews to go on, but in the absence of anything else, I’ll just say this: don’t go in expecting anything like Mamma Mia!, in style or in content. You’ll be disappointed at best.