Music and Lyrics: Duncan Sheik
Book: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Reviewer: Niall Harman
Since its publication in 1991,Brett Easton Ellis’ novelAmerican Psychobeen deemed by some to ‘harmful to minors’, is only available in Australian bookshops shrink-wrapped in plastic and resulted in the author receiving death threats. It latermade for a bloody film starring Christian Bale. It’s fair to say that it is not the most conventional subject for a musical.
Adapted for the stage by comic book writer by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, with music and lyrics by Spring Awakening composer Duncan Sheik, American Psychoran at London’s Almeida Theatrejust over two years ago. Yet the cast recording has only just been released to coincide with the opening of the musical on Broadway. Interspersed with the cast performing hits from Phil Collins, The Human League and Tears for Fears, Sheik’s music has a distinctive feel that recalls the eighties setting of its source material. The show sees Wall Street banker Patrick Bateman rebel against the yuppie culture by increasingly disturbing means, engaging in a complex mix of homophobia, prostitution and murder.
One musical highlight is Susannah Fielding, accompanied by Katie Brayben (before her Oliver Award-winning turn as Carole King in Beautiful), praising excess and extolling the virtues of high fashion in You Are What You Wear. Probably the catchiest tune of the 22 on this recording, it features the fantastic lyric ‘I’ll have soda, and crème de menthe. Tastes so good with Oscar de la Renta’. Fielding, as Bateman’s fiancée, features on another standout track, When We Get Married, which contrasts her sweet ideas of their future together with his murderous intentions.
As the later tracks blend into one another, Killing Spree stands out with a stellar beat and somesadistic lyrics. Yet but with these highs come inevitable lows. A Girl Before, while sung beautifully by Cassandra Compton, is very syrupy and sounds like half a dozen songs from other musicals. Clocking in at over five minutes, the melodramatic This Is Not An Exit outstays its welcome and Hardbody makes for an irritating upbeat number.
Former Doctor Who Matt Smith made for a surprising choice as the suave serial killer Bateman, but he has a surprisingly good voice, but isadmittedly outdone by Fielding and Compton. Sheik’s lyrics are always clever, dark and witty, and are often graphic, although considering the novel they are based on this is hardly surprising.
Despite some standout numbers, overall American Psycho is a mix of very similar songs that makes the piece, despite its brilliant lyrics, somewhat forgettable. Far from bad, but far from memorable.