Barely had it hit the shelves in 1991 before Brett Easton Ellis’ controversial novel about a narcissistic Wall Street serial killer was pulled off again, only being sold in shrink wrap to people over 18. In 2000, American Psycho was turned into a film, receiving mixed but emphatic reviews. Then, somewhat surprisingly, it was adapted as a stage musical in 2013, with a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and music/lyrics by Duncan Sheik. Alexander Berlage is directing a forthcoming production of the musical at The Hayes and says the reaction he gets from people ranges from “how does that work?” to “makes total sense” depending on how they interpret American Psycho.
“There are three different types of people; there are those who have read the book; those who have seen the film; and those who think they’ve seen the film – and it’s often those who think they’ve seen the film who find it most bizarre that you could do a musical based on it,” says Berlage.
He believes most people completely misunderstand story, failing to see beyond the excesses and extreme violence. Ellis’ book is really an exploration of existentialism and a “really fucked up world”, which in fact, is the perfect basis for a musical.
“What better things to sing about than a fucked up world?” says Berlage. He believes most people have the wrong idea about the story.
“It’s actually deeply funny and profoundly moving at the same time […] I think it’s a musical both for people who love musicals, and people who hate musicals, cause it doesn’t sound like your average musical.”
Berlage describes it as Shakespearean in scale and depth, yet filled with pop culture.
The music landscape includes 80s hits from people like Human League, Phil Collins, Tears For Fears, interwoven with an impressionistic electronic and vocal original score. Despite the setting, Berlage does not think the story has dated.
“It feels incredibly current. It’s set in the 90s but the characters we encounter feel so contemporary.”
And what of the much-discussed violence?
“There will be blood but it won’t be a blood bath.”
May 10-Jun 9. Hayes Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point. $50-$65+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.hayestheatre.com.au
By Rita Bratovich