OMGWTFLOL: “American Psycho”: The Musical
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 27, 2008
Don’t just stare at it, buy tickets for it
Psyche! Nope, it’s not a joke–Variety has officially reported that plans for a musical based on Brett Easton Ellis’s 1991 book American Psycho are in the works, though details are still fairly sketchy at the moment. Most of us will of course recall Ellis’s work about the mass-murderous yuppie as filtered through the feminist directorial lens of Mary Harmon and the gloriously histrionic-laden lead performance of Christian Bale. The movie was not a particular critical or commercial success, but it followed a natural progression to cult status, eventually made one of the 21st century’s first great leading men out of Bale, and gave us at least a half-dozen quintessential O-Watchers in the process. And now, it’s giving us a brand new Broadway musical.
Now, the movie-turned-musical is not a particularly new phenomenon, and indeed, at least two of the biggest musical hits of the decade (The Producers and Spamalot) have come from cinematic source material. But those musicals seemed like far likelier fits for their film equivalents–for one thing, both Producers and Holy Grail already had musical numbers within the films, providing at least some sort of context for a musical adaptation to start with. And they were also comedies–loose, zany, fairly free-form comedies, ones that not only lent themselves to musical adaptation, but just to adaptation in general. American Psycho, on the other hand…well, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t funny, but certainly in a significantly darker, and much less transmutable way than these movies were.
My friend Lisa brought up perhaps the more appropriate example of the Evil Dead musical, which took a fairly gruesome source flick and turned its gore and horror into theater kitsch, replete with optional blood-spatter seating. But Evil Dead was already pretty kitschy to begin with (no horror movie with a tree-rape scene can ever be taken solely at face value), and especially with the increasing ridiculousness of the sequels, no one could possibly take offense at the movie not being taken seriously. American Psycho, on the other hand, while certainly far from being cheese-free (FEED ME STRAY CAT), does have a fair amount of satire and subtext to it that would be sort of hard to turn into song and dance, at least as it’s traditionally constituted.
Really, it’s kind of hard to imagine how songs get inserted into this at all. For one thing, who would possibly be given a song besides the Patrick Bateman character? Most of the best lines in the movie either come from Bateman’s thoughts or are taken from rants where Bateman is basically talking to himself. I mean, maybe the Willem Dafoe and Chloe Sevigny characters get a song each, but basically, this is a one-man show. And even if Bateman gets all the good numbers, how many Murder Ballads can you squeeze into one two-hour musical before getting somewhat redundant? Or do you just have lots of songs based on lines in the movie? “Murders & Executions”? “What Her Head Would Look Like On a Stick”? And of course, the big closing number, “I Have to Return Some Videotapes”?
Much room as there is for error here–and I was definitely not a fan of either Spamalot or The Producers–I am somewhat excited by this news. There’s something that’s just so inherently perverse, so incredibly wrong-seeming about the whole thing, that it can really only be a huge disaster or a huge success, both of which are wins in my book. More potential for an interesting evening out than Xanadu, at least. And probably as much nudity as Spring Awakening.