"American Psycho" musical is gruesome fun!

Every fan of the arts should enjoy a trip to London, seeing as how there is always an abundance of plays and musicals running. Currently, there are several recognisable names from film and television headlining and appearing in various shows. But if there is one show that I'd recommend above all others at the moment, it's the brand spanking new "American Psycho" musical with Matt Smith (Doctor Who, Christopher and His Kind) starring as Patrick Bateman. "American Psycho" was originally a highly controversial novel written by Bret Easton Ellis in 1991, and was adapted into an equally polarising film starring Christian Bale in 2000. The story is set in New York and satirises a highly materialistic and elitist way of living in the 1980s. I had a ticket to a Saturday matinee near the back of the stall (floor) seats and was so blown away by the show that I queued on Tuesday in the hopes of seeing it once more. I was successful in my endeavours and found myself right in the front row, where I experienced far greater detail and nuances than what I had in the back.

"American Psycho" has less than twenty cast members and much of the supporting members make frequent and countless costume changes and are responsible for building the ambiance of the various settings, be they bougie or dingy. The set has many revolving and moving pieces that allow for a change of scenery without always relying on black-outs and thus enables the story's momentum to be maintained. Much of the violence is implied through the use of sound effects and lighting, which makes for a less stomach-churning viewing than the film.

The soundtrack consists of both original pieces and cast renderings of classic 80's tunes, such as Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and The Human League's "Don't You Want Me." Given that this is a new musical, there will in all likelihood be a soundtrack released, and it will be well worth picking up. "Clean" sets the show's dark tone with chilling synthetic keyboard and minor chords. "Not A Common Man" is haunting, and punctuated by Matt Smith and the rest of the cast acting out various sexual shenanigans. "Cards" just might be my favourite track, given that it further escalates the hilarity of one of the most iconic scenes of "American Psycho." Bret Easton Ellis had already made the "Mine's bigger than yours" issue far funnier by mixing capitalism and ego in and creating "Check out my card." All that was missing was singing and dancing - until now.

In addition to Smith's Bateman, several performances stood out. Ben Aldridge's Paul Owen is everything it should be. He's good-looking, smooth, charming, narcissistic, and sharp enough to know when and where to prod to make compensating, (mostly) hetero-males even more insecure than they were before encountering him. From his schmoozing-with-the-audience introduction to his dancing atop tables, he commands attention from all. Holly James' Christine does not have many lines of her own, but when it comes to dancing, she is a powerhouse. Her sharp moves absolutely slay the stage, if you'll pardon the pun. Hugh Skinner's Luis Carruthers is hilarious, clingy, and a fantastic embodiment of irrational infatuation. Jonathan Bailey flexes both his dramatic and comedic muscles. Bailey brings to life an intense, roid-raging, coked up Tim Price with madness resembling Michael Keaton's "You wanna get nuts?!" Batman and at least half the roles Jack Nicholson has ever played. The facial twitches in the cab scene are utter perfection. His snippet as Tom Cruise is brief, but is so delightfully cheesy that I dare you to not laugh whilst watching. One more stand-out supporting performance that must be praised is Susannah Fielding's Evelyn Williams. This character is so vain, shallow, flamboyant, and ridiculous that it would fit right in on one of those terrible "Real Housewives" shows. Fielding does not hold back and brings forth tremendous theatricality. You can feel how much fun she must be having playing such an over-the-top character and it makes her sparkle all the brighter in every scene.

Finally, we come to the star of the show, Matt Smith. For those who were wondering about Smith's ability to sing and dance, he both stayed on key and executed the choreography well. The cast in its entirety has a varying range of singing and dancing abilities and the production caters to and showcases everyone's strengths without making anyone else stick out as a weak link. Smith's physicality is solid, whether he's stalking victims or getting groovy whilst listening to his walkman. His sardonic chuckle is chilling each time it's heard and his expression is equally potent, whether it's lost, cold, or murderous. His flirtation with insanity is mesmerising, and whether he's smoothly name-dropping designer possessions or aggressively fisting a giant pink teddy bear, there's never any doubt that Matt Smith is a phenomenal performer. He brings depth and a touch of vulnerability to the role without compromising the essence of Patrick Bateman.

Additional information

"American Psycho" musical is nearing the end of its run. February 1 is the last day on which you can experience the show live. Despite the fact that if you look online, you will see that the show is sold out, you can still queue for day seats in the morning and queue throughout the rest of the day for return seats leading up to the time of the show. Make no mistake, you can still see it if you're willing to put forth the effort. There is also a petition for the release of a DVD of the production which you can sign here: (x) On top of the brilliance of the show itself, the Almeida Theatre is a smaller, more intimate venue and the staff is nothing but courteous and helpful. Get yourself down to the Almeida immediately; this is a show you simply cannot miss!


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