American Psycho and Odd Stage Adaptations

Something strange happened to me on my way home from work the other day. I was waiting to cross the street when I looked to my left and saw an ad on a pay phone for an upcoming Broadway musical. Now, seeing ads for musical theatre is far from uncommon in New York but this one was particularly intriguing to me. It was an advertisement for American Psycho: The Musical. Yes, you read that right. American freakin’ Psycho is coming to the Broadway stage. Not only that but it’s going to be a goddamn musical! The popular Bret Easton Ellis novel about an unassuming sociopathic killer on the prowl in the streets of the Big Apple will be told in the form of song and dance. I’ve got to admit, the very idea does intrigue me enough to want to check it out even if it does look a tad ridiculous on paper. I’m not a huge follower of the theatre world but American Psycho is in fact one of my all time favorite films and Christian Bale’s compelling performance as Patrick Bateman made me an instant fan of his. Who can fill those shoes? Well, the Eleventh Doctor himself, Matt Smith starred in the production in London but for its American debut, Benjamin Walker, best known as the titular character of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, will assume the role of of Mr. Bateman. Let’s see how this will turn out!

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It looks like the play was composed by Duncan Sheik. You all remember Duncan Sheik, right? He was the one-hit wonder from the 90s who had that song, Barely Breathing. Not a bad track, actually, but like Eagle Eye Cherry and Shawn Mullins, Sheik joins the list of forgotten 90s OHWs (though I did like Save Tonight but loath Lullaby). Sheik has apparently branched out into making music for the stage now and made a nice little career for himself after his 15 minutes. Now that I think about it, a song entitled Barely Breathing is actually perfect for something like American Psycho. The play was also written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the same dude who penned the screenplay for the 2013 Carrie remake as well as another imagining, The Town That Dreaded Sundown. So he has the horror game down pat.

This has got me thinking of other popular movies that have made for unconventional stage productions. Believe it or not, American Psycho is not the only head scratcher for theatre adaptations in recent years. Author, Chuck Palahniuk, confirmed last summer that his popular novel turned film, Fight Club, is also headed to the stage. With the involvement of the film’s director, David Fincher and music written by Trent Reznor, we’ll either be seeing Tyler Durden and Marla Singer jumping and skipping merrily or deeply brooding to industrial beats across a sold out theater fairly soon. I’ll be lying if I told you that both ideas interest me as well.

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Remember the disastrous journey, Spider-Man had to endure to become a stage spectacle? It ran for three years and was destined to never make a profit! After losing its main stars of Alan Cuming and Evan Rachel Wood and director, Julie Taymor, the musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, finally opened its doors in 2011 but managed to rack up highest budget in Broadway history of $75 million in the process. The musical showcased the battle between the masked Peter Marker and the villainous Green Goblin in a flurry of upbeat dance number and dangerous stunts. One of these stunts featured Spidey suspended high in the air by cables and flying above the audience. A good number of the performers became injured before previews were even finished. The cost of insurance was skyrocketing on a production that was not cheap to begin with (I mean, it featured original music by U2 which couldn’t have been an inexpensive investment). It made very little impact and failed to keep a steady audience with reviews ranging from negative to mediocre. It closed in 2014 not even making anywhere close to its budget back. Poor Peter Parker.

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Who can forget Shrek the Musical? After the massive success of Disney’s The Lion King onstage, Dreamworks tried to achieve similar acclaim with its most popular animated franchise. What wound up happening was an awkward play with actors decked out in green makeup. It amazingly ran on Broadway for about a year in the late 2000s before embarking on a tour throughout the U.S.

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Hell, going back to the aforementioned Carrie, even that was a musical once upon a time. Yes sir, a broadway run in the late 80s was met with total flop. Maybe the world wasn’t ready for such a thing? I have to believe that if this same thing was released today that it would be more warmly received. I mean, a strong female lead in a captivating story can’t woo audiences? C’mon, they made Legally Blonde into a broadway musical, they can try again with Carrie White.

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Whether ironically or not, Carrie wasn’t the only horror classic to make it to the live stage. Evil Dead has also made rounds in theater with a musical adaptation that’s been running strong for over a decade now. Although it’s never made it to Broadway, it became an instant hit in its native Canada and later had a popular stint off-Broadway in New York. It’s even reached overseas with productions in Japan and Korea giving it an international presence. Theatergoers wear raincoats while sitting in the audience to avoid the constant blood splatter ruining their clothes. By the end of the night, fans look like they just exited a Gwar concert. The fans love the music and campiness of the entire production and its cult fanbase is what makes it strong today a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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In what is probably the oddest choice for a musical, Showgirls debuted off-Broadway in 2013 and became a hit. You read that correctly, that erotic film from the mid-90s that featured worst acting than a porn flick and destroyed the acting career of Elizabeth Berkley somehow made for a fun play. Unlike the performance mentioned thus far, Showgirls: The Musical seems to follow the exact plot of the film but instead goes for a self-deprecating approach. It’s satirical humor and self-awareness has made it a treat for audiences on the east coast. Setting itself apart from the other plays in New York with its erotic humor, it’s tapped to make its west coast debut this summer. Just look at the show’s tagline: Singing, Dancing, Thrusting. That says it all right there.

 

Do you know anymore? Shoot me a comment!

Written by Matthew Reine

is a New Yorker with a strong passion for film and television. Also the biggest Keanu Reeves fan you know.

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