Review Roundup: AMERICAN PSYCHO Opens at the Almeida- Updated!
Rupert Goold, The Almeida Theatre's Artistic Director, directs the World Premiere of American Psycho, a new musical thriller with book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis. It opens tonight, December 12 and runs through January 25, 2014.
Matt Smith takes the part of Patrick Bateman, alongside an ensemble cast which includes Ben Aldridge, Charlie Anson, Jonathan Bailey, Katie Brayben, Cassandra Compton, Holly Dale Spencer, Susannah Fielding, Simon Gregor, Holly James, Lucie Jones, Tom Kay, Gillian Kirkpatrick, Eugene McCoy and Hugh Skinner.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Spencer, The Telegraph: You could sense the audience lapping up this empty mixture of ironic style and sudden moments of violence, and there is no doubt that Rupert Goold's production is smart and sharp. But like the novel on which it is based, it is also glib, heartless and pretentious...I was also disappointed by Matt Smith's psycho...while Smith's Dr Who struck me as tiresomely zany, here he seems boringly blank, and never comes close to catching the characters mental disintegration, powerfully described in the novel and brilliantly caught by Bale in the film. His singing voice is flat and expressionless too.
David Benedict, Variety: Since soullessness is the essence of Patrick Bateman, the anti-hero of Bret Easton Ellis's notoriously savage fantasia on 80s greed "American Psycho," you could argue that an all-style and no substance musical version might possibly be appropriate. And helmer Rupert Goold and his design team certainly capture the high veneer 80s style that Bateman so worships. But beneath the highly polished surface there's little drama or, crucially, danger. In a serial-killer thriller, that's not just a problem, it's an indictment.
Simon Edge, Express: Rupert Goold's production authentically captures the ice-cold detachment of Ellis's narrative, as do Es Devlin's sleek sets...Robotic choreography to a score that includes Bateman's favourite tracks from the book...completes the picture of yuppie soullessness. I've no objection to serial killing as a subject for musical theatre - it worked wonders for Stephen Sondheim with Sweeney Todd. While the new tunes are forgettable and rhyming "ironic" with "Manolo Blahnik" is predictable, the stylised nature of the narrative lends itself to musical theatre form...Matt Smith, who I've always thought was a better actor on stage than he was in Doctor Who, does a fine job in the lead role. The fact that he doesn't have the most polished singing voice does his performance no harm...But the work itself is as boring as its lists of brand names to the extent that it's a relief when the killing starts, and the risibly indulgent ending - a bolt-on twist that makes little sense - betrays the inadequacy of the writing.
Paul Taylor, The Independent: [Smith's] compelling Patrick is more opaque and much less manic than Christian Bale in Mary Harron's excellent movie. He wears his beauty as a mask; the lack of colour in his singing voice becomes part of Bateman's blankness...Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 novel in which capitalist extremism is satirised through a psychopathic serial-killing Wall Street banker seems an improbable subject for a tuner. But this witty, almost terminally knowing show tackles that difficulty with deadpan cheek...Though it calls itself "a musical thriller", the show is short on visceral tension...The new songs suggest that numb conformist banality does not offer satire an extensive tonal palette...But the all-singing-and-dancing company perform the piece with terrific attack and the second half manages to take you into Patrick's panicking emptiness without a hint of sentimentality or sanitisation.
Steve Myall, The Mirror: From the moment Matt Smith rises from a tanning bed stripped to his $60 Ralph Lauren underwear this show is a stylish feast...And this is what the show is great at - turning a very visual book to a slick choreographed representation of 1980s excess told through the eyes of mass murderer in New York...Set to a soundtrack of classic 80s music - think Phil Collins and Huey Lewis and the News - but with some excellent original new songs, Clean being one of the standouts, it sounds and looks beautiful...Smith hasn't the traditional musical theatre voice but that adds to his telling of a man striving for meaning to his life above and beyond superficial pleasures during a performance which he's barely off stage for a moment. As the vain mass murderer of Manhattan - a role light years from Doctor Who - Smith kills it.
Quentin Letts, The Daily Mail: Well, that's one way of making sure you're not typecast. Matt Smith, having just quit TV's Doctor Who, takes the lead in an exhibitionist London musical full of murderous sex and drugs...From the moment he enters -- rising on a sunbed in nothing more than a pair of Calvin Klein smalls -- it is impossible to miss him. He has stage presence and he certainly has the requisite six-pack. Add a Herman Munster brow, a gripping stillness, a weirdo aggression, and you have a convincing Wall Street maniac...But this production, directed by stunt-pulling Rupert Goold and slickly choreographed by Lynne Page, longs to be thought cool, even while criticising cool...Trouble is, this show's visual appeal is based on the same shallow aesthetic. The staging is typical Goold: back-projections, pop-up props, boobs, bottoms, stainless-steel chic...This is without doubt a theatrical event...But having made this splash, he now needs to escape the limiting influence of tyrant Goold, whose shows - so narrow in age range and metropolitanism - are strait-jacketed by bleak lovelessness.
Matt Wolf, TheArtsDesk.com: Among the multiple achievements of American Psycho, any one of which might be enough to make Rupert Goold's long-awaited Almeida season-opener the banner musical of a notably busy year for the form, a particular paradox deserves mention up front. Here's a piece steeped in material (the Bret Easton Ellis novel from 1991 and its film version nine years later) that fetishises surfaces and wallows in emptiness and that - a grand hurrah! - turns out itself to have a lot to say. I had feared in advance that the show might devolve into a blank celebration of late-80s blankness as per the book but not at all. By turns devastating and quick-witted, scintillating yet unexpectedly moving, the piece raises all sorts of hopes for Goold's embyronic Almeida tenure and -- far more importantly -- for renewing interest in a genre that has been running in place for far too long.
Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage: Content is so perfectly tailored to the design that Lynne Page's choreography - at one point Patrick and the traders are suspended horizontally by their work stations - is as much an organic statement of the show as the book and lyrics, just as the cast, individually and together, seem united in tone and purpose.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: Maybe the sleek staging undercuts some of the blackness of the original book. But the compensation lies in the heightening of the satire in a world in which "everyone has a beautiful body" and in which people are identified by fashion, fads and gizmos. Jointly presented by the Almeida, Headlong and Act 4 Entertainment, this is a show that confirms the mythic power of Easton Ellis's story and leaves us all dangerously entertained.
Mark Shenton, The Stage: Goold's vivacious production, with its witty pop video choreography from Lynne Page and a stunning white box design by Es Devlin that also becomes a screen for Finn Ross's astonishing, propulsive video to be projected on, has superb ensemble support from a cast that includes Jonathan Bailey, Hugh Skinner and Ben Aldridge as work colleagues, and Susannah Fielding, Gillian Kirkpatrick and Cassandra Compton as some of the women in his life. A future life is surely on the cards for it after its Islington run.
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: Although American Psycho is certainly bloody, where it needs to feel dangerous it sometimes seems a little too slick. Yet much of it is brilliant, and I would be surprised if this stylish shocker doesn't swiftly find its way into the West End.
Dominic Maxwell, The Times: When this musical version of Bret Easton Ellis's controversial 1991 bestseller was announced last year, it sounded like a bad joke. Instead Rupert Goold's dazzling production proves to be a darkly funny, outrageously entertaining gag that boasts a star turn from Matt Smith, proving he can be as alien as a well-groomed American serial killer as he is as a Time Lord. The violence is toned down and the carefully kitsch soundtrack will delight even those who think they don't like musicals.
Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter: But director Rupert Goold's glitzy new London stage adaptation almost glosses over the book's notoriously graphic carnage altogether, aiming instead for a darkly funny tone that plays at times like a light-headed, razzle-dazzle social satire. A little lacking in focus, it feels more like a series of splashy set-pieces than a serious literary adaptation. But it's nonetheless an impressive, immersive spectacle. Already sold out for the duration of its run through February, American Psycho seems virtually guaranteed a West End transfer. And for such an iconic New York story, of course, Broadway would be its natural home.