‘American Psycho’ the Musical: Why Patrick Bateman Needs to Sing
“Weirdly, I think Dorian Grey is an ancestral connection to Patrick Bateman. They are both obsessed with style and society, and both are beyond morality,” Aguirre-Sacasa says. “They are amoral at a minimum, if not the opposite of that. They want to be young, beautiful, never want to grow old, never want to interact with people who aren’t of the same class. And Dorian has a big sexual appetite, a pansexual appetite, which I think is also true of Patrick Bateman.”
The creative team originally planned a jukebox musical that included popular songs from the 1980s and early Nineties. Once they brought on award-winning composer Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) to work on the music and lyrics, however, the score went in a new direction. According to Aguirre-Sacasa, they’d wanted to use Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” for a sequence of Bateman killing many people over a passage of time. Then Sheik wrote a sort of homage to the song, “Killing Spree,” which allowed Bateman to explain his internal motivations. Two prostitutes that Bateman tortures were initially going to sing Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night,” until Sheik wrote “Not a Common Man,” a poignant ballad that includes Bateman singing the lines: “There are gods, there are kings / I’m pretty sure I’m the same thing. / I am needing so much more / Every pleasure is a bore, I am something other than a common man / I’m not a common man.” And the new opening number, “Selling Out,” Sheik says, captures that “whole ethos of this late-Eighties, Reaganite set of people. It sets up the whole world in some way.”
The musical still contains a minute or so of New Order’s “Truth Faith,” Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby” and a remix of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” that makes Tears for Fears’ mainstay more relevant than ever. Phil Collins’ song “‘In the Air Tonight” has been reinterpreted in a haunting version that’s sung like a gospel choir and becomes an eerie ode to foreshadow Bateman’s brutality. Only “Hip to Be Square,” the Huey Lewis and the News song that plays a pivotal part in the film, remains untouched. It has Walker gleefully bouncing around onstage before hacking up his colleague with an axe.
Despite the amount of blood and hedonistic acts, the music humanizes Patrick Bateman in a way the movie never could. By having him sing, he seems to have a soul. It’s similar to what Stephen Sondheim managed to do with Sweeney Todd and Assassins – open up the interiors of despised killers – only now with a racist, homophobic, misogynist who appears to slaughter a slew of innocent people as he sings about his impulse to murder.