Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Duncan Sheik Turning American Psycho Into a Killer Musical

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13 Jan 2011

Duncan Sheik
Duncan Sheik
Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Tony Award-winning Spring Awakening composer Duncan Sheik and Good Boys and True playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa are getting down to business on the stage musical adaptation of Bret Eaton Ellis' iconic 1991 novel "American Psycho."

Aguirre-Sacasa told Playbill.com that the first act is in place, and he is pushing forward with the second half of the musical thriller about a 26-year-old Manhattan investment banker who moonlights as a serial killer. "We’ve figured out the tone and the spine of the story—both of which took some trial and error, as you can imagine—the process is picking up steam," he said.

The writers are embracing the satirical tone of Bret Eaton Ellis' original novel, which is set during the height of the 1980's Wall Street greed. "It’s brutal, obviously, but it’s also brutally funny… And that’s a slippery thing to capture," he noted.

"It’s got big, flashy numbers, big ideas, big themes," Aguirre-Sacasa said. "It’s Patrick Bateman and his world… New York at the end of the 1980s, populated by the very rich, the very poor, the masters of the universe, the faceless, nameless, homeless. It’s sort of apocalyptic and big."

And, there will be blood. Aguirre-Sacasa promises that the brutal murders depicted in the novel and film will be shocking on stage. The novel stirred controversy with its graphic accounts of how Bateman murdered his victims and mutilated their bodies. "The hope is to theatricalize the violence in such a way that it packs a visceral punch without being completely grindhouse," Aguirre-Sacasa said. "But will you have to wear a raincoat if you sit in the front row? Too early to tell… But maybe."



American Psycho will have an original score by Sheik, with a couple songs from the 1980's sprinkled into key moments for effect. Ellis' novel tethers itself to the era with numerous musical references. Sheik describes the sound of the score as "electronic art/pop mixed with re-imaginings of classic eighties synth/pop songs."

One of the songs, titled "Hardbody," is a workout song for the Wall Street men, which Aguirre-Sacasa calls "genius" and "disturbing." He also added that some moments will function as story-driven theatre songs, while others "are just great club songs that make you want to dance—or, you know, go after someone with an ax."

The writers are ready to begin conversations with potential directors for American Psycho, which could ultimately hit Broadway or the West End, but a spring reading or workshop is a closer goal. "It’s going to be a challenging piece, to say the least," said Aguirre-Sacasa. "The goal is to write a great show we’re all proud of and then to put that show on wherever it makes the most sense."

Aguirre-Sacasa relates the tale to Georg Büchner's grim tragedy Woyzeck. "It’s one man’s horrific, misguided attempts to connect with the world around him," he pointed out. "To make sense of the societal chaos that’s threatening to crush him and his friends. Patrick wants to belong—he wants to feel—he wants what we all want, on some level. But he is—to say the least—a deeply disturbed individual. With very few things keeping him tethered to the rest of the world we ('normal people') live in, as the musical begins, he loses one of those touchstones—his best friend, Tim Price—and things start spiraling out of control for him."

The producing team behind American Psycho includes Act 4 Entertainment’s David Johnson and Jesse Singer; the Collective’s Aaron Ray; and XYZ Films’ Nate Bolotin. Ellis and Edward R. Pressman are consulting producers.

Playwright Aguirre-Sacasa is known for his plays Based on a Totally True Story, Say You Love Satan and Doctor Cerberus. He is also a writer for such comic books as "Marvel Knights 4" and "Sensational Spider-Man." His upcoming projects also include a revised production of the classic Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical It's a Bird… It's a Plane.. It's Superman.

Sheik, a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, penned the score to the Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening, which has book and lyrics by Steven Sater. The musical earned Tonys for Best Score, Best Book and Best Musical. Sheik's projects include The Nightingale (with Sater), as well as the new musical Whisper House (with Kyle Jarrow).