BWW Interview: Utah Rep to Produce the Murderous Debauchery of AMERICAN PSYCHO, with Composer Duncan Sheik Attending a Performance
Will you be horrified at the insensitive murders or laugh uproariously at the tongue-in-cheek humor?
"There's a certain effect that happens in the show that I can guarantee very few Utah theatergoers have experienced, and every single time I've explained my plan brought faces lit up at the idea," says AMERICAN PSYCHO: THE MUSICAL's Director Josh Patterson. "Utah Rep is known for bringing audiences new experiences, and this show is no exception."
"American Psycho," the combustible bestseller that was widely damned and praised, paints the shocking, funny and unsettling portrait of Patrick Bateman, a 26-year-old Manhattan investment banker with a designer lifestyle and an idiosyncrasy for murder.
Bret Easton Ellis' 1991 novel was adapted into a musical by the vanguard Tony-winning composer Duncan Sheik ("Spring Awakening," "Secret Live of Bees") and popular playwright/screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (TV series like "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" and "Riverdale" and his work for Marvel Comics). It was a sellout sensation in London, and opened on Broadway in 2016 to reviews that included "So smooth, so rich, so ruthless. A carnal carnival of song and dance" from the New York Times and the Associate Press writing: "AMERICAN PSYCHO slays onstage! Wonderful! Graphic sex acts, torturing, stabbing, slashing, axe-wielding, snorting coke off toilets and a marvelous score."
Utah Repertory Theater Company -- with "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Afterglow," "Bare: A Pop Opera" and "The Bridges of Madison County," a company that has established a reputation for staging musicals (and dramas) that would not ordinarily expect to be produced in the conservative state -- is boldly producing AMERICAN PSYCHO at the Eccles Theater Regent Street Black Box Nov. 30-Dec. 15, 2019. And a first for any company in the state, Utah Rep is hosting Sheik at a performance Dec. 7, uniquely allowing patrons to discuss the recent Broadway musical with one of its creators after its mountain states premiere.
Where the 2000 film focused more on the horror and black humor of the novel, the musical goes for the jugular, ramping up the ridiculous humor and graphic sexuality to reflect the heightened state of a musical. The soulless murders are not for suspense or drama, but used as an intellectual trope, emphasizing the caustic satire about materialism and unbridled sex -- and the empty feeling that comes with being satisfied by nothing.
"A most intriguing thing about this musical is that it's a musical," Patterson continues. "At first reaction, I wondered how in the world this show could work as a musical. And not only did Duncan Sheik manage to seamlessly blend the music into the world of the play, but he did it in a way that perfectly captures Patrick's obsession with music of the period" (Whitney! Huey! Phil!).
The director adds that AMERICAN PSYCHO is "a nonstop musical that feels both cinematic and theatrical, and the ride has something for everyone: romance, murder, '80s nostalgia, and a cornucopia of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Yet despite its surface, this isn't a mindless ride through escapism. Before the audiences has a chance to catch their breath, their minds, and maybe even hearts, will already be engaged."
It's interesting to note that among the most popularly staged "horror" musicals, with bloodbaths -- including "Carrie," "Sweeney Todd" and AMERICAN PSYCHO -- Utah Rep has staged each.
Will theatergoers be horrified or wildly entertained by the sarcasm?
"I don't think audiences will be as appalled as they might expect," Patterson explains. "The thing about Patrick Bateman is that he is successful at everything that we should abhor, yet we envy his success and his position. I think everyone will be surprised at how much they identify with him and cheer for him to succeed.
"The important thing I think everyone should remember while they watch the show is that it isn't a critique of the kind of person that Patrick is, but a rebuke of the world that created him."
At Utah Rep's staging, there will be blood. Along with sexual revelry and celebrated hedonism -- and an unparalleled experience for the Utah theater enthusiasts.