Arts News

Utah Rep’s ‘American Psycho’ is bloody sexy

Trump and his unyielding hunger for power and prominence inspires Patrick Bateman’s callous behavior and mindless murders.

With repeated, shouted choruses of “Lock Him Up” at public events, the passion felt toward Donald Trump has dramatically shifted since Patrick Bateman idolized him reverentially as “The Donald.”


“Bateman and Trump are both textbook narcissists,” says Johnny Hebda, who plays the lead character in the musical adaptation of American Psycho, Brett Easton Ellis’ combustible bestseller. “They move themselves as above the rules and superior to other people. What they have achieved, or more importantly the perception of what they have achieved determines their value and worth, and success is the most important thing in their lives.” 

Where the 2000 film focused more on the horror and black humor of the novel, the musical goes for the jugular, ramping up the ridiculous humor and graphic sexuality to reflect the heightened state of a musical. The soulless murders are not for suspense or drama, but used as an intellectual trope, emphasizing the caustic satire about materialism and unbridled sex — and the empty feeling that comes with being satisfied by nothing.

“Beginning in the ’80s, men were prettifying themselves in ways they weren’t before,” author Ellis has explained. “They were taking on a lot of the tropes of gay male culture and bringing it into the straight male culture — in terms of grooming, looking a certain way, going to the gym, waxing and being almost the gay-porn ideals. That seemed to me much more interesting than whether he is or is not a serial killer.”

“It is surprising how much of myself I see,” says Hebda about playing the designer-dressed — and undressed — antihero. “Though set in 1989, the subject matter is surprisingly topical. Patrick Bateman, as well as characters in the story, represent at least on the surface, the American Dream —successful careers, financial security, elevated status in society, the height of fashion, perfect bodies, haircuts, tans, and a very fun and exciting social life. But underneath, they are characters void of depth or meaningful relationships. They are deeply unhappy and their reputation and society dictate their decisions in life.”

American Psycho: The Musical, a production by the adventurous Utah Repertory Theater Company, is the brainchild of Tony- and Grammy-winning musician Duncan Sheik (Broadway’s Spring Awakening) and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, best known for his work for Marvel Comics and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

“So smooth, so rich, so ruthless. A carnal carnival of song and dance,” reviewed The New York Times, while the Associated Press wrote, “American Psycho slays onstage! Wonderful! Graphic sex acts, torturing, stabbing, slashing, ax-wielding, snorting coke off toilets and a marvelous score.”

“I look at American Psycho as a fable, as an allegory, as an amazing commentary on contemporary Western civilization,” the composer told an interviewer. “He’s sort of the victim of the world in which he lives.”

Pure joy from curtain up to chainsaw down, American Psycho: The Musical veers between comedic and horrific, between satire and splatter-horror, and between a savage social diary of the times and a vivid exploration of psychological disintegration. The slick, sexy, highly disturbing show will have you snort-laughing into your chardonnay before coward-punching you in the gut.

American Psycho: The Musical opens Nov. 30 and runs through Dec. 15, Eccles Theatre, Regent Street Black Box Theater, 144 S. Regent St., SLC. Tickets available at http://utahrep.org/.

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