The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings









etcetera- NEWS


See links at top of our Main Page







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review
American Psycho
By Charles Wright

This is true: the world is better off with some people gone. Our lives are not interconnected. That theory is a crock. Some people truly do not need to be here.
— Patrick Bateman, the first-person narrative voice of Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 novel American Psycho
 American Psycho
Benjamin Walker(Photo: Jeremy Daniel)
A quarter century ago, journalists and book buyers recoiled from the brutality and heartless sex of American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis's novel about an investment banker whose avocation is serial murder. The book's initial publisher decided against issuing the novel; a subsequent publishing house released it as a paperback original rather than in hardcover. Roger Rosenblatt's review in the New York Times Book Review was headlined "Snuff this book!"

Over time, American Psycho has become a staple of contemporary American literary fiction and it was made into a movie by Mary Harron in 2000. It's about Patrick Bateman, a 27-year-old graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School, who works on Wall Street during the day and prowls both fashionable and demi-monde Manhattan by night. Bateman's Jekyll-Hyde existence involves socializing with other young men and women of privilege in restaurants and nightclubs, while seeking ever more innovative (and gruesome) ways to commit murder and dispose of mangled corpses.

A musical adaptation of American Psycho has arrived on Broadway from London, where it was produced by the Headlong Theatre Company at the Almeida in Islington. In London, with Matt Smith (formerly television's Dr. Who) as Bateman, the show aroused considerable interest but didn't find overwhelming critical or commercial success.

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (book) and Duncan Sheik (music and lyrics), the musical American Psycho conjures the fads, brands, gadgets, fashions, and political concerns of New York City in the era of Mayor Koch. The workmanlike script and lyrics evoke the aspirations and anxieties of Reaganite America with references to Donald Trump, the AIDS epidemic, and the biggest Broadway sensation of the day, Les Miserables. Sheik's pleasant though bland musical score replicates effectively the rhythms and moods of pop hits of the day and samples themes from Phil Collins, Huey Lewis and the News, and Tears for Fears, among others.

Bateman is Benjamin Walker, who was Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson off and on Broadway and appeared as Brick Pollitt opposite Scarlett Johansson in the 2013 revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. (On screen he was honest Abe in Abraham Lincoln: Zombie Hunter).

Walker has a splendid singing voice and admirable stage technique. He was a high-testosterone Andy Jackson; and, as Brick, he conveyed a tempest of neurotic energy underneath a lethargic facade. In theory, Walker's regular-guy appeal, formidable stage presence, and experience portraying neurotics are ideal qualifications for the role of Bateman. As yet, however, the key to this character's psychology (far bloodier, or at least more gratuitously so, than Andy Jackson's) has eluded him. Whether in smart business suits or stripped to his briefs (as he is for large parts of the show), Walker's Bateman is a robotic Ken doll, unquestionably psycho but devoid of the menacing quality that would make credible Ellis's tall tale of urban horror.

Lacking the acute sense of danger that effective horror stories must have, the musicalized American Psycho relies for thrills on the Grand Guignol pleasures of its top-flight design team. Scenic designer Es Devlin provides a wide, unbroken playing space that permits director Rupert Goold and choreographer Lynne Page to keep the action swift and fluid. The pale hues and simple, moveable back-panels of Devlin's set constitute an ideal environment in which her fellow designers — particularly Justin Townsend (lighting), Finn Ross (video), and Katrina Lindsay (costumes) — create atmosphere, spectacle and surprise.

To a 2016 sensibility, the critical and commercial dust-up occasioned by Ellis's novel 25 years ago seems quaint. Recent massacres at American schools, shopping malls, and movie theaters (as well as in Paris and Brussels) make the bloodlettings in American Psycho imaginable if not comprehensible. Contemporary audiences, accustomed to the irony that now saturates media discourse, are more likely than late 20th century readers to grasp the satiric impulse behind Bateman's horrifying and genuinely funny story.

Walker is supported by 15 talented musical-theater artists, most of whom deserve Bateman's favorite accolade — "hardbodies." Helene York and Jennifer Damiano, the former racy and the latter demure, are stand-outs as the love interests of the unloving and unlovable Bateman. Jordan Dean (as Luis Carruthers) embodies cartoonish sexual confusion with a touch of farce, pursuing Courtney (Morgan Weed) in public and clumsily putting the moves on Bateman when he thinks no one's looking. Broadway favorite Alice Ripley is in good voice but under-utilized in three ancillary roles, the most significant being Bateman's mother.

American Psycho offers special-effect beheadings and other acts of mayhem that have remarkable verisimilitude. Devlin captures the chaotic spirit of Bateman's existence with gallons of stage blood that fly toward the audience before spattering on the translucent curtain at the front of the playing area. That bloody explosion is intensely theatrical, but this anemic new musical adds little, if anything, that's noteworthy to what Brett Easton Ellis said 25 years ago.

American Psycho
Music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik
Book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Directed by Rupert Goold
Choreography by Lynne Page
Cast: Benjamin Walker (Patrick Bateman), Alice Ripley (Patrick's Mother/Mrs. Wolfe), Helene Yorke (Evelyn Williams, Patrick's girlfriend),Jennifer Damiano (Jean, Patrick's secretary), Drew Moerlein (Paul Owen), Krystina Alabado (Vandan), Dave Thomas Brown (David van Patten), Jordan Dean (Luis Carruthers), Anna Eilinsfeld (Victoria), Jason Hite (Sean Bateman), Ericka Hunter (Sabrina), Holly James(Christine), Keith Randolph Smith (Detective Kimball), Alex Michael Stoll (Craig McDermott), Morgan Weed (Courtney Lawrence); also Sydney Morton, Anthony Sagaria and Neka Zang.
Sets: Es Devlin
Costumes: Katrina Lindsay
Lighting: Justin Townsend
Sound: Dan Moses Schreier
Hair, Wigs & Make-up: Campbell Young Associates
Video Design: Finn Ross
Stage Manager:
Running Time: Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45TH Street
From 2/19/16; opening 3/21/16;closing 9/25/16
Reviewed by Charles Wright at 4/17/16 press preview
Musical Numbers
Music by Duncan Sheik; lyrics by Duncan Sheik (Unless otherwise noted)
Act One
  • Opening (Morning Routine)
  • Selling Out
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World
  • (music by Roland Orzabal, Chris Hughes and Ian Stanley; lyrics by Roland Orzabal, Chris Hughes and Ian Stanley)
  • Cards
  • You Are What You Wear
  • True Faith
  • (music by Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Hague; lyrics by Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Hague)
  • Killing Time
  • In the Air Tonight
  • (music by Phil Collins; lyrics by Phil Collins) Hardbody
  • You Are What You Wear (Reprise)
  • If We Get Married
  • Not a Common Man
  • Mistletoe Alert
  • Hip to Be Square
  • (music by Bill Gibson, Sean Hopper and Huey Lewis; lyrics by Bill Gibson, Sean Hopper and Huey Lewis)
Act Two
  • Clean
  • Killing Spree
  • Nice Thought
  • At the End of an Island
  • I Am Back
  • You Are What You Wear (Reprise)
  • A Girl Before
  • Don't You Want Me
  • (music by John Callis, Phil Oakey and Philip Adrian Wright; lyrics by John Callis, Phil Oakey and Philip Adrian Wright)
  • This Is Not an Exit
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of American Psycho
  • I disagree with the review of American Psycho
  • The review made me eager to see American Psycho
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show

©Copyright 2016, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from