Review: American Psycho, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

“The song’s so damn catchy, most people don’t realize it’s a rollicking ode to conformity and the importance of trends”

Bigger and bolder, and that’s just the pecs of leading man Benjamin Walker. It’s taken a little while for Rupert Goold’s American Psycho to make it over the pond after its run at the Almeida in the winter of 2013/4. But nothing if not tenacious, it now opens in a remounted and slightly retooled version at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, in a production that is indeed bigger and bolder, brasher too as befits the 80s incarnation of the city in which it now resides.

Book-writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has adapted Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of amorality into a tautly entertaining tale that both mocks the period (was that Donald Trump joke in the original?!) but also subversively questions the whole narrative, asking us how reliable Patrick Bateman is in relaying his tales of natural bedpartners investment banking and serial killing, or whether this uber-narcissist is something of a fantasist too.

And underpinning the story is the glossily electronica-heavy score from Duncan Sheik (here’s my review of the recently released London Cast Recording) of which I have to say I am a big fan. Predominantly original songs but interspersed with choral re-arrangements of 80s classics from the likes of Tears for Fears and Huey Lewis and the News, their pop-inflected sheen may take a couple of listens but there’s much self-referential humour here and a certain amount of sexiness too – just listen to the way Walker says ‘ hard body’.

It is fascinating to see Walker in the role after Matt Smith made such an impact at the Almeida. Undoubtedly a better singer, he’s certainly more charismatic and seductive but you miss a little something of the dispassion that Smith exuded so effortlessly, even whilst murdering several people in the space of one song in a blood-spattering variety of methods. He’s partnered well by Heléne Yorke as his materialistic girlfriend, Jennifer Damiano’s sweet secretary and Jordan Dean’s besotted Luis.

Es Devlin’s ingeniously wipe-clean set expands to this larger space well, Lynne Page’s hands-in-the-air choreography remains an absolute delight that you’ll just want to recreate, and Katrina Lindsay’s costumes are a treat for the eyes of pretty much everyone, as well as evoking the era perfectly. Yes, the show feels a bit like empty calories, it hasn’t much depth to it in the final analysis but like candy floss or a Warburton’s toastie loaf, it is hugely, hugely satisfying in the consumption. 

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Jeremy Daniel
Booking until 25th September

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