Rounding up my London theater viewing party is American Psycho, starring
The Doctor Matt Smith. It’s also the latest from Duncan Sheik, composer of that-show-that-no-one-really-cared-about-and-it-was-totally-the-traditional-little-musical-that-didn’t-break-any-musical-theater-boundaries-called Spring Awakening.* When it was announced that Duncan Sheik was penning a new American Psycho musical, I put it on the lists of shows I must see in London. Then I saved that list into the netherworld of all things that I e-mail to myself and I slacked on my intent to buy. Then Matt Smith broke the internet by announcing that he and his short hair would be playing Patrick Bateman. Let me tell you, the time I spent kicking myself over this was approximately the same amount of time I spent refreshing that godforsaken tickets page.
*My skills in sarcasm are unprecedented
Another interesting thing about London theater is that there really isn’t one central location for theaters. There are a bunch of them that are centrally located in Soho and whatnot, sure. But they’re definitely not as clustered together along an 8-block strip the way Broadway theaters are. In order to get to the Barbican, for example, you’ve got to head just north of the Financial District, under this shady-looking overpass. American Psycho played at the Almeida Theater, which took me to the Angel/Islington neighborhood. The Almeida is a small theater, and the seats are couch benches instead of regular seating, which was pretty awesome. I was sort of surprised that the Almeida was able to pull a huge-attraction musical like American Psycho. On the other hand, the smaller, out-of-the-way space gave the show a more subversive, avant-garde atmosphere. Well, at least I felt like a badass for actually getting tickets to this thing AND finding my way there by bus.
American Psycho was all I hoped it would be, and then sometimes it wasn’t. Duncan Sheik’s music utilized plenty of 80’s pop and synthesizers (there’s a whole dance number to ‘Don’t You Want Me, Baby’) in keeping with the play’s flashy club scenes and end-of-the-century American decadence. The melodies were definitely catchy, but I felt continuously disappointed by the predictable sub-par lyrics. They felt pretty basic, reiterating what is already going on in the scenes instead of lending the scenes any depth or nuance. Whenever a lyric was sung that actually revealed something new about Patrick Bateman’s nature or lifestyle, it really clung to me, but I could probably count them on one hand. The sets and costumes, on the other hand,w ere much more precise. They managed to be both flashy and austere, which reflects our favorite investment banker’s interior life much better than some of the songs did.
The musical doesn’t stray too far from the film adaptation. Reservations at Dorsia are still of vital importance, as are daily skin routines and VHS rentals. I kept waiting for the Phil Collin’s monologue, but it never happened. Bateman’s secretary Jean is given a much larger role in the musical, as well as a god-awful solo number. Let’s just say she joins the ranks of women like Oliver!‘s Nancy and Carousel‘s Julie who stick with men who abuse them, except her song of loyalty and steadfastness falls as fast and dead as Patrick’s victims.
Matt Smith makes his grand entrance rising up in the middle of the stage in a tanning bed. It’s pretty epic. I’ve seen most reviewers praise his performance by saying that his icy, one-note performance is a clever portrayal of Bateman’s yuppie boredom and detachment. For the most part, it worked for me, but I would have loved to see him get actually really flipping angry or really flipping psycho in a scene or two. Smith’s singing usually started out rocky– for the first verse or two, it sounded like he was trying to croon his way in. But once in, Matt carried the song through quite well.
Well, that completes my London fun. Can’t wait for the next time I visit!