Tag Archives: Elisabeth Vincentelli

Nr 462: American Psycho (2013)

13 Jan

American Psycho
2013: London
2016: Broadway, 54 perf
2019: Sydney

Music & Lyrics: Duncan Sheik
Book: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis

Based on the best-selling novel by Bret Easton Ellis, and set in the epicenter of excess: 1980s Manhattan, American Psycho tells the story of 26-year-old Wall Street investment banker Patrick Bateman, young and handsome with impeccable taste and unquenchable desires. Patrick and his elite group of friends spend their days in chic restaurants, exclusive clubs and designer labels. It’s a world where appearance trumps substance, greed is good, and one’s purpose in life is to crush the competition at all costs. But underneath his smooth and suave exterior lies a psychopath with bottomless blood-lust for getting what he wants and wanting what he can’t get.
When he finds out that one of his coworkers, Paul Owen, not only has secured the exclusive and highly sought after Fisher account, but also has managed to get a reservation at the new elite restaurant Dorsia, AND has a better looking business card, the inner monster flashes his teeth. 
Patrick invites Paul to his apartment before a party. Patrick spikes Owen’s drink, puts on a raincoat and begins a long one-sided analysis of the artistic and commercial merits of the band Huey Lewis and the News. After stating that ”the world is better off with some people gone”, Patrick slaughters Owen with an ax.
Afterwards, he lets himself into Paul’s apartment and stages his disappearance by resetting his voicemail and packing many of his possessions into a suitcase.
Months pass. Having made sure to make people believe that Paul is in London Patrick appropriates Paul’s apartment as a place to host and kill more victims, beginning with 2 hookers…

 This is a rather uneven show. I found the first act to be laugh out funny, sharp, edgy, witty, a little scary, and at the same time a little nostalgic since I lived through that era, and with a perfect first act finale: the bloody murder of Paul Owens. I really couldn’t wait for the second act to begin but… I didn’t really like that act. The music was still good, some numbers amazing but the murdering got a bit tedious and the piece didn’t really go anywhere. And I hated the end of the musical which has him marrying his girlfriend and resigning himself to a pointless existence in which the punishment and notoriety that he craves will forever be denied him. While the book ends as it began, with Bateman and his colleagues at a new club on a Friday night, engaging in banal conversation. A much more cynical and frightening end, I think.

The music is, of course, for the most part synth music, and quite hard synth I might add, which I love. I think mr Sheik has done a brilliant jobb in giving us a batch of new synth hits. There are also some covers of 80s hits like Hip to Be Square, Don’t You Love Me Baby and In the Air Tonight all performed in new exiting versions that differ quite a lot from the originals.
All in all, I like the cast album a lot, the show itself… well, it isn’t bad but there could be improvements made…


And speaking of American psychos… Patrick Bateman and his friends idolize Donald Trump…

Duncan Sheik is perhaps best known for writing the music to the Tony Award winning Broadway musical Spring Awakening (2006).

In London the part of Patrick Bateman was played by Matt Smith, maybe most famous for being the youngest actor ever to portray the title character in the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who and he also portrayed Prince Philip in the two first seasons of the Netflix series The Crown.

The Broadway version of the show won 3 Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Lighting Design, Projection Design and Sound Design in a musical.
And 2 Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Lighting Design and Projection Design.
It was nominated for two Tony Awards but didn’t win.

Press:
Though it is spattered with stage blood from beginning to end and features the sort of carnage associated with Eli Roth movies, “American Psycho” turns out to be one of those musicals that send your thoughts awandering, even as you watch them. So while this show’s title character takes a gleaming ax or chain saw to his co-stars, you may find yourself fixating on the following questions: Collectively, how many hours   of gym time per week does the incredibly buff cast embody? … Did those auditioning for “American Psycho” have to submit ab shots instead of head shots? And before they set foot onstage each night, are they required to pass a body mass index test?
If such queries do indeed fill your head during the long and decoratively gory duration of “American Psycho,” … then it could be argued that the show’s creators have done their job.

Of course, it could be argued that the “American Psycho” team has done its job too well, since you’re also likely to identify with Patrick when, shortly before he crucifies a young woman with a nail gun, he concludes solemnly that there’s “not one clear, identifiable emotion within me.”

Characters snort cocaine in dance clubs; have meaningless sex; order silly-sounding, elaborately named fusion dishes at overpriced restaurants; and recite designer clothing labels as if they were holy mantras, and make fun of those who are less of-the-minute than they are.
In other words, New York hasn’t changed all that much. Yet “American Psycho” treats the ’80s with the condescending nostalgia associated with decade-defining clip-compilation shows on lesser cable channels. And with a couple of signal exceptions, this musical treats its inhabitants as shrill cartoons (to laugh at) and sculpted sides of meat (to ogle).

Mostly, though, this psycho is neither scary nor sexy, nor is the show in which he appears. This may be good news for concerned citizens who feared the musical might present a nastily irresistible role model to impressionable young ’uns. Not to worry. In “American Psycho,” there’s little that’s lusty in blood lust.
– Ben Brantley, The New York Times

If you can resign yourself to the story’s innate ambiguity, you’re in for a perversely enjoyable experience.

The music is totally ’80s as well: Sheik’s bizarrely catchy, entirely electronic score – far from the usual Broadway fare….

And as for the violence – it’s simply part of the story, usually a joke, and often part of a stunning stage picture.
– Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly

The second act flags…but the score is strong…Duncan Sheik’s synthesizer-heavy music – radical by Broadway standards…finally delivers a worthy follow-up to his ”Spring Awakening.” A comic ”American Psycho” you can dance to? Somehow, it works.
– Elisabeth Vincentelli, The New York Post

Videos:
Selling Out
You Are What You Wear
Cards
Hip To Be Square
Killing Spree
Trailer

Nr 392: After Midnight

1 Sep

After Midnight (2013)
Revy, Broadway, 272 föreställningar
Musik: Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, Jimmy McHugh m fl
Sångtexter: Ted Koehler, Dorothy Fields, Duke Ellington m fl
Dikter: Langston Hughes
Baserad på City Center’s Encores! revy The Cotton Club Parade (2011)

Föreställningen är en revy som utspelar sig i Harlem ”after midnight”, och är egentligen bara en slags extra stor och påkostad krogshow så som jag i min fantasi (som är ganska influerad av musikalfilmer från eran) föreställer mig att de såg ut på 1920/30-talet. Och det är precis det som är tanken: Den är ett försök att återskapa stämningen och innehållet av en av The Cotton Club’s berömda floor shows från eran.

Hela showen består av ett antal sång- och/eller dansnummer av hög kvalitet ibland inramade av dikter av Langston Hughes som en vitklädd konferencier läser upp. Det är stepp, blues, jazz, swing, torch songs, scat och street dance om vartannat. Det senare kanske inte riktigt passar in ”i tiden” men är ganska så häftigt ändå.

Här har vi en show där även orkestern för en gång skull fick ta ”center stage” vid flera tillfällen, för det gick att flytta fram orkesterpodiet så de hamnade längst framme på scenen. Och 16-manna bandet som lirade var föreställningens absoluta stjärnor enligt mig. De lyfte showen till oanade höjder med sin musikalitet, groovet, svänget, ”improvisationerna”, de galna soloinsatserna och den fullständigt hysteriska energin de utstrålade – non stop i över 90 minuter – makalöst!


De flesta i ensemblen var okända för mig och säkert också för större delen av publiken men under hela spelperioden tog man in olika gästartister som fick jobbet att vara ”stjärnan” i showen bl a K.D. Lang, Toni Braxton, Vanessa Williams och Patti LaBelle. Den version jag såg hade American Idol vinnaren från 2004, Fantasia Barrino (kanske mest känd som bara Fantasia), i divarollen. Den tjejen har en fantastisk pipa men var ganska så ointressant att titta på. Hon sjöng otroligt bra men hon berättade inget med sin sång och  det blir skickligt men tomt liksom.

Då var flera av den ”fasta” ensemblen betydligt bättre på att berätta nått, speciellt gillade jag Adriane Lenox som lyckades få in en lätt cynisk, livserfarenhetsfylld humor med småfräcka blinkningar och glirningar till publiken i sina nummer. Nått som behövdes för det är inte direkt en show som har ett överflöd av humoristiska inslag, även om man försökte ”vitsa till det”  ibland. Här fanns några hyfsat komiska dansnummer och ett eller annat roligt sångnummer men i övrigt så var det mesta polerat, snyggt, skickligt och ganska så kliniskt.
Och inte riktigt engagerande i längden.
Blir lite långt som teaterföreställning, speciellt när man kör den som en drygt 90 minuter lång enaktare.
Att istället sitta på en mörk inpyrd klubb i Harlem omkring 1928, efter midnatt, med en iskall, god drink i ena handen och en cigg i den andra och se det här uppdelat på 2 akter… Mmmm, det hade varit nått det!

Kuriosa:
Den vann en Tony Award för bästa koreografi.
Den fick 2 Drama Desk Awards: bästa revy och koreografi.
Även från Outer Critics Circle Award fick den pris för bästa korografi.

After Midnight
är baserad på New York City Center’s Special Event The Cotton Club Parade, en revykonsert som var tänkt att återskpa lite av magin som utspelade sig på den berömda jazzklubbem The Cotton Club i Harlem, New York. Konserten blev en succé och man valde att flytta den till Broadway och gav den då titeln After Midnight, fråga mig inte varför för originalets titel tycker jag säger mer om vad den här showen var.

Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert is a program that has been presented by New York City Center since 1994. Encores! is dedicated to performing the full score of musicals that rarely are heard in New York City.
Detta att framföra ”bortglömda” musikaler i konsertversioner har lett till att flera av de gamla klassikerna de framfört har fått nya castinspelningar där man fått plats med betydligt mer av musikalens musik än vad som var möjligt på en LP-skiva. Detta har varit en enorm källa till lycka för en musikalnörd som jag.
Konserterna har i vissa fall också väckt liv i shower. Chicago som man framförde 1996 blev så uppskattad att man flyttade konsertversionen, lite lätt utökad och bearbetad men med samma sparsmakade kostymer och scenografi, till Broadway där den fick premiär på hösten samma år. Den går där fortfarande 20 år senare och är nu den längst spelade amerikanska musikalen i Broadways historia.

Press:
I mean no disrespect to the superabundance of talented performers in this jubilant show when I say that they are all playing second fiddle, if you will, to the main attraction. This would be the 16 musicians called the Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, stacked in a bandstand at the back of the stage for much of the evening, rollicking through the music of Duke Ellington and Harold Arlen and others with a verve that almost captivates the eye as much as it does the ear. It will be a long time before Broadway hosts music making this hot, sweet and altogether glorious again.

You know you are in the presence of musicians of a supremely high caliber, but the virtuosity never feels prepackaged or mechanical. There’s too much joy in the playing, and that’s the feeling audiences will be floating out of the theater on when the last note has died out.
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times


… After Midnight,” a sleek, elegant tribute to Duke Ellington and the glory days of the Cotton Club that brings class back to Broadway.


But the show’s true star is the 17-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars orchestra, handpicked by Wynton Marsalis. It sits in plain view onstage, pumping out pulsating takes of Ellington’s big-band classics, popularized by the likes of Ethel Waters and Cab Calloway. If the joint is jumping — and boy, is it! — it’s thanks to those guys.

As in old-school revues, “After Midnight” highlights a range of specialty performers. While Carlyle isn’t the most imaginative choreographer, you can’t help but thrill as his dancers triumph in wildly different styles.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post


Broadway’s new arrival is a dazzling musical revue that jets audiences back to Harlem’s jazzy 1930s heyday. It’s an exhilarating joyride all the way.


In the ensemble of 25 vocalists and dancers, it’s easy to pick a favorite: It’s whoever is on stage at any given moment.
Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News


Why go on about the spectacular After Midnight, other than to say that for pure entertainment it comes as near being worth every penny charged as anything does in this gold-plated ticket era of ours? Why go on about an intermissionless 90-minute musical revue in which each number that for style and ebullient wit tops the one that’s just preceded it, other than to say it’s an instant got-to-go-to?

David Finkle, Huffington Post

Video:
Trailer för City Centers Special Event
Snuttar ur The Cotton Club Parade
First Look at AFTER MIDNIGHT on Broadway  
Toni Braxton
Fantasia
K.D. Lang  
Vanessa Williams   

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