Alice Ripley & American Psycho

I’ve been reading a lot about how the theatre community thinks Alice Ripley is wasting her talents in her small roles in American Psycho. They’re pissed that her roles are barely-there and I have to say they’re pretty much unnecessary. The show would be the same whether or not Patrick Bateman’s mom showed up.

Ripley was last on Broadway in Next to Normal where she famously and award-winningly got to have mental breakdowns onstage every night. Rumor has it that she also blew her voice out pretty hard with the score. Whatever the case may be, American Psycho is her first return to a Broadway stage and people are pissed. They’re even going as far to say that she must be furious with how small her role is.

To the fans who don’t know how the industry works, let me just tell you: she didn’t take the part without reading the script first. No one tricked her into a small role. If she has an agent worth his or her salt, he/she negotiated a really good deal for her, what, with being a Broadway veteran and a Tony Award winner. That counts for something.

Equity weekly minimum is around $1,475 (I think) and with her credentials I’d bet she’s making at least $2,500 every week. You could offer me $2,500 every week for a small-ish role in a Broadway show and I’d sure as hell take it. I’m pretty sure most people would.

As the theatre crowd erupts in self-righteous anger over this I’d like to remind them that Ripley is a person and has bills to pay, too. And if she can still pay those bills while working on Broadway, who is anyone to tell her what role is beneath her? Oh, right: not you. Or me. Or anyone but herself.

/end rant

This is what being Patrick Bateman means to me. 

J and I went to see American Psycho on Tuesday night (remember when I waited on line in the freezing cold for like way-too-long?) and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d listened to the London cast recording a bunch of times on Spotify and loved a lot of what I’d been hearing, but who knows how it would transfer, right?

I’ve been lurking on the American Psycho Previews thread on BroadwayWorld and the buzz was that the first act was amazing but the second act dragged. I was excited to see how they’d handle the chunks of the book that included the mass murders of numerous prostitutes and how much blood, exactly, would be on that stage. I’d also heard the opening moment of the show was amazing. I was really excited but trying to keep my expectations low, anyways. 

Spoilers ahead!

The opening moment WAS cool. The stage was filled with smoke and there was screaming, but I wanted it to be more frightening. (Maybe they’ll up the scares during previews.) For those of you who saw the cast perform on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last week, well, Benjamin Walker is only in tighty-whiteys and looks like he’s eaten nothing but protein shakes since then. He looks good. He describes his morning routine and then the song Selling Out starts.   

I know Selling Out wasn’t in the London production and I have no idea how the show must’ve felt without it. It sets the feel for the entire show. These are a bunch of empty, shallow (albeit extremely well-dressed and good looking) people who care about all the wrong things and are extremely annoying.

I digress. Cards was the next great song. Theo Stockman is playing a completely different character from who he has played in the past (Hair, American Idiot) as the obnoxious colleague of Bateman’s Tim Price. J burst into a laughing fit as soon as he spoke his first lines because his voice is just that ridiculous. Another stand out was Drew Moerlein in his Broadway debut as another one of Bateman’s colleagues Paul Owen. He was as smug and overly expressive in that douchey way that only an investment banker on Wall Street can be. 

You Are What You Wear was an introduction to the women who (sometimes) occupy these men at night. Helene Yorke as Evelyn (Bateman’s girlfriend) and Morgan Weed as Courtney (Evelyn’s friend) outshine every other female on that stage with their comedic timing and portrayals of these socialites. I don’t think Yorke opened her mouth a single time that wasn’t answered with laughter from the audience.

Side note: Jennifer Damiano plays Bateman’s secretary, Jean, the same way she always plays her roles (Next to Normal being the exception). That said, she didn’t disappoint. Alice Ripley plays Bateman’s mother in addition to two other small roles and she’s great. She’s supposed to be a heavily medicated mother which she’s done before and won for a Tony for it, so: this is basically a walk in the park. 

The pre-written songs that Sheik wove into the show were seamless and worked without question. Everybody Wants to Rule the World and In the Air Tonight (this one sounded exceptionally spectacular) fit right in, as does Hip To Be Square at the end of the first act. 

The score is so very 80′s and it’s so much fun. Not a Common Man was one of my favorite songs of the first act and I Am Back and This Is Not an Exit were definitely my favorite in the second act. I had I Am Back in my head all day yesterday. 

There are LOTS of projections used in the show. And there are two turntables on the stage. Even though Les Miserables is referenced over and over (it was the hot thing in 1989!), the turn tables don’t make it feel like we’re watching Les Miserables at all. Don’t worry. Donald Trump is also referenced probably a dozen times, too, since he was a big thing especially to Wall Street douchebags. Trump is referenced three times as much in the book though. The producers couldn’t have picked a more appropriate time to transfer American Psycho to New York with this reference intact. 

So, the gore. There’s not a lot of blood in Act 1. He kills his first person at the end of Act 1 and there’s a decent amount of blood on the plastic scrim. I was really curious as to how they would get through all of the people he murders in the book and they handled it perfectly. Patrick Bateman has really loses his mind by Act 2 and after trying to clear it with a trip to the Hamptons accompanied by Evelyn, he returns to Manhattan (I Am Back) and goes on a killing spree. There’s lots of blood on people and the walls for this. Imagine a pile of dead bodies center stage and that’s how this song ends. It was a perfect way to get through a good 100 pages of the book that describe how he murders dozens of people.

Oh, and the sex. There’s a silly, but hysterical scene in Act 1 with simulated sex between two prostitutes and Bateman with ridiculous projections. I read that lots of people hated this but by the time the end of Act 1 rolls around, you’ve already forgotten it’s happened because you’re enjoying the rest of it so much.

The audience was largely a theatre crowd. You could tell that they hadn’t read the book because they gasped when Bateman invites Jean to his apartment before they see a show. She doesn’t die in the book and she doesn’t even have much of a role in the movie, so they would never have killed her off in this adaptation.

Benjamin Walker was so, so good. He’s a playing a character who is a genuinely bad person but I felt sorry for him at times, especially when he was being ignored. All Bateman wants is to fit in and he feels invisible; that’s just sad. He has a much better voice, in my opinion, than Matt Smith does and I hope they plan to record this soon (as far as I know, they don’t). 

It clocked in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is long, but the book is 400 pages and a vast majority of it is in Bateman’s mind. When he’s really losing coherence in Act 2, there’s a lot of dialogue to try to express this. He’s covered in blood, dressed in his tighty whiteys and he realizes there’s no way out (This Is Not An Exit). It’s a heavy second act, though I’m not sure what you could cut to make it shorter. 

You could say this is a representation of how society in America completely ignore mental illness if said-mentally ill person has an outward appearance that satisfies us. Even if that person tells us they’re going out of their minds and want to kill people, we’re more likely to say, “great joke!” than take it seriously. Bateman’s pleas for help are ignored by his friends and family. 

To say I had a good time at American Psycho is an understatement. Is it a perfect show? No. Is it for everyone? No. I could imagine the New York Times panning it’s non-traditional but I hope word-of-mouth and the cult following that the book and movie have can make it a hit. 

There was a great energy inside the theatre on Tuesday night and I hope they can sustain the momentum they’ve been building and take your average Broadway audience by surprise.

This weekend I’m working on making a portfolio for a job interview that’s coming up and while going through lots of old college stuff, I found this super old set list from a 2004 Ripley the Band gig at The Red Lion.

My friend and I were certainly not 21, being college freshman and all, but we pulled strings where we knew we could (or she did, mostly) and got in to multiple concerts there when we were many, many moons from being of age. 

Broadway looses a little part of it’s soul (and sanity) tonight with Next to Normal closing.  It’s had a fantastic, unbelievable, and unexpected two-year run, while winning 3 TONY Awards, and even a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  

I’m incredibly nostalgic about this closing but a friend reminded me that this was the little show that “defied odds and had a great run.”  When you put it that way, there’s absolutely nothing to be sad about.  When I think about Next to Normal, my one regret is the fact that I didn’t get to see it in it’s early stages when it was under the working-title Feeling Electric at NYMF in 2005.  I had every intention to do so, but it sold out too quick and I was not yet a fan of buying tickets ahead of time.  I was able to see it at Second Stage in 2008 though, and although some of the music was electrifying, the second act dragged and I never thought it was going to go anywhere so I was shocked to hear it was being taken to DC’s Arena Stages.  It seemed like an unlikely step if they were on the road to Broadway but it ended up being a necessary one where they worked out all of the kinks that had been discovered in the material at Second Stage.  

I took my mother to see Next to Normal on Broadway in 2009 for Mother’s Day.  Many people have laughed when they heard this, but my mother wanted to see it, and who was I to deprive her of seeing a show that I was also slightly interested in seeing (and see what had changed)?  The second act had definitely been cleaned up and the show was an entirely enjoyable and emotional roller coaster from start to finish.  Their hiatus in DC had been what was needed.  The above picture was taken that Mother’s Day in 2009 after the show of my friend Damien and I (come to think of it, it would’ve been much more appropriate to have gotten a picture of my mother and me but alas, can’t change that now).  

I was really excited to have been introduced to the composer, Tom Kitt, a few days before the TONYs that year at his band’s concert (called The Tom Kitt Band) at The Bitter End (which was a hella good time) where he sang the much, much longer original version of “I Am the One” (from Next to Normal).  I even geeked out for a moment when I remembered that Kitt wrote the score for the short-lived (awesome) musical version of High Fidelity (of which I was a huge fan).  That concert ended up being a load of awesome and was totally worth getting home at 2am for (watch a video of the last half of the finale here).  I asked Kitt to sign the setlist at the end of the night because he was such a totally talented rockstar.  It’s been framed on my wall ever since.

I was rooting for Next to Normal at the Tony’s that year, and was thrilled when they won for Best Score, Best Orchestrations, and Best Actress in a Musical (everyone in the house was just as perplexed with Ripley’s acceptance speech as everyone watching at home was, don’t worry).  Ultimately Billy Elliot took the big award home at the end of night unfortunately.  

I saw Next to Normal again later in 2009, and once more at the end of 2010.  I am incredibly happy that I was able to see it the few times I did.  I debated going to the show once more this weekend, but decided against it.  The last time I saw the show was incredible and I think “last show’s” are something to be savored by the super fans of a show, and the people who were involved in it’s creation. I would’ve felt slightly out of place.  

Congrats to the little show that could.  And did.

Broadway looses a little part of it’s soul (and sanity) tonight with Next to Normal closing.  It’s had a fantastic, unbelievable, and unexpected two-year run, while winning 3 TONY Awards, and even a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  

I’m incredibly nostalgic about this closing but a friend reminded me that this was the little show that “defied odds and had a great run.”  When you put it that way, there’s absolutely nothing to be sad about.  When I think about Next to Normal, my one regret is the fact that I didn’t get to see it in it’s early stages when it was under the working-title Feeling Electric at NYMF in 2005.  I had every intention to do so, but it sold out too quick and I was not yet a fan of buying tickets ahead of time.  I was able to see it at Second Stage in 2008 though, and although some of the music was electrifying, the second act dragged and I never thought it was going to go anywhere so I was shocked to hear it was being taken to DC’s Arena Stages.  It seemed like an unlikely step if they were on the road to Broadway but it ended up being a necessary one where they worked out all of the kinks that had been discovered in the material at Second Stage.  

I took my mother to see Next to Normal on Broadway in 2009 for Mother’s Day.  Many people have laughed when they heard this, but my mother wanted to see it, and who was I to deprive her of seeing a show that I was also slightly interested in seeing (and see what had changed)?  The second act had definitely been cleaned up and the show was an entirely enjoyable and emotional roller coaster from start to finish.  Their hiatus in DC had been what was needed.  The above picture was taken that Mother’s Day in 2009 after the show of my friend Damien and I (come to think of it, it would’ve been much more appropriate to have gotten a picture of my mother and me but alas, can’t change that now).  

I was really excited to have been introduced to the composer, Tom Kitt, a few days before the TONYs that year at his band’s concert (called The Tom Kitt Band) at The Bitter End (which was a hella good time) where he sang the much, much longer original version of “I Am the One” (from Next to Normal).  I even geeked out for a moment when I remembered that Kitt wrote the score for the short-lived (awesome) musical version of High Fidelity (of which I was a huge fan).  That concert ended up being a load of awesome and was totally worth getting home at 2am for (watch a video of the last half of the finale here).  I asked Kitt to sign the setlist at the end of the night because he was such a totally talented rockstar.  It’s been framed on my wall ever since.

I was rooting for Next to Normal at the Tony’s that year, and was thrilled when they won for Best Score, Best Orchestrations, and Best Actress in a Musical (everyone in the house was just as perplexed with Ripley’s acceptance speech as everyone watching at home was, don’t worry).  Ultimately Billy Elliot took the big award home at the end of night unfortunately.  

I saw Next to Normal again later in 2009, and once more at the end of 2010.  I am incredibly happy that I was able to see it the few times I did.  I debated going to the show once more this weekend, but decided against it.  The last time I saw the show was incredible and I think “last show’s” are something to be savored by the super fans of a show, and the people who were involved in it’s creation. I would’ve felt slightly out of place.  

Broadway Musical Chairs – Well, Not Really.

So it’s not technically musical chairs – no theatre is being “taken away” after the music ends, and no show is being forced to close after it doesn’t get to a theatre fast enough. 

Rock of Ages is closing on January 9th… but it’s re-opening at the Helen Hayes Theatre in March.  No one is quite sure why this is happening, especially with Second Stage’s impending acquisition of the Helen Hayes.

It was also announced that Rain, the Beatles tribute musical, is closing at the Neil Simon Theatre on January 15th and then transferring to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, re-opening on February 8th for a minimum of 16 more weeks. The producers of Catch Me if You Can have the Neil Simon booked the Simon earlier last year. 

Lastly, it was announced that extraordinary writers behind Next to Normal, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, are teaming up again to pitch an idea for a musical vehicle for Robert Downey Jr.  I am just as confused by this as you are, don’t worry.  But I’m sure the TONY winning team won’t disappoint. Playbill updated readers with more news on the story that can be found here.

Some unbelievable occurences, as well as some exciting occurences are going on on the Great White Way in the next couple of months.   What will happen next?  I’m betting a revival of Les Miserables….. but deep down I’m crossing my fingers for a revival of Sunset Boulevard!  We shall see.

I hadn’t seen Next to Normal since late summer 2009, which isn’t that long ago but it feels like an eternity.  Since then a completely new cast has taken the Booth Theatre by storm while keeping the show’s spirit and integrity fully intact.  Matt and I thought our luck was gone during the lottery drawing last night, but luckily, I was the second-to-last name draw and our fate was set for the night.  It marked the 4th time that I have seen the show – three times on Broadway and once off-Broadway at Second Stage, and although I am maybe drawn to see it once more before it closes on January 16th, I think that last night was probably enough. 

I remember seeing it off-Broadway and thinking that it was an absolute mess, and I stopped feeling so badly about having missed it in it’s even earlier inception at NYMF, under the working title Feeling Electric.  Although some of the music was good, the second act was unbearably long and quite tedious to have to sit through.  I thought it was odd when they took it to DC to Arena Stage and then even stranger that it was transferring to Broadway.  Why would such a train wreck of a show transfer?, I thought.  But after hearing some positive things that were compelling enough to spark my mom’s interest in seeing it, I bought her tickets and we went on Mother’s Day in 2009 and we both loved it.  Their out-of-town try out proved to be incredibly helpful and the story was smooth and the second act was bearable now.  Contrary to popular belief, it’s a perfect show to take your mom to on Mother’s Day.

I was excited to see the show once more before it closed because I’d been hearing great things from many of my friends about the new Diana and Dan, Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley (real life married couple, too!), as well as Meghann Fahy as Natalie (Diana and Dan’s daughter).  I was underwhelmed at the prospect of seeing Kyle Dean Massey as Gabe again though because I didn’t enjoy his performance the first time around in 2009 when he was covering for Aaron Tveit (while Tveit was out in Seattle).

The above graphic is still my favorite line in the show.  And I’d almost completely forgotten how incredibly the score is and how much I loved it.  Our view was great too from up in the first house right box.  We were basically eye level with Mazzie during “I Miss the Mountains” which was thrilling. 

Mazzie plays Diana as older than Alice Ripley had, I think, and she becomes just as crazy and scattered, but at times she was a more poised crazy.  Her voice is fantastic and she can belt with the best of them, but she knows when it’s time to change to her head voice.  She sounded very operatic on the high notes of “You Don’t Know” but I’m fairly certain that it’s just proper singing to preserve your voice in such a beast of a show, if not, you’ll end up tearing your voice to shreds as Ripley did during her run.  Mazzie was just as great, if not better, than Ripley. 

Danieley is also fantastic.  His voice is very classical with a hint of edging, but I think that’s appropriate character considering he’s not (until the end, at least) the crazy one in the family.  Again, he is a great replacement for Bobby Spencer and has little-to-no chance of letting fans down with his interpretation.

I have to admit that I may have liked Fahy more than Jennifer Damiano.  I believed that she was incredibly high when she was pill-popping and that she was a stressed-out 16 year old during the first act more than I remember believing it in Damiano’s interpretation.  Her voice was great, though a bit weak during some of the high notes.  Massey was also great; he has improved by leaps and bounds since he was an understudy/cover.  His voice is powerful, his looks great, and he moves around the stage with ease.  I adore Adam Chanler-Berat as Henry (I might just adore the character more than Chanler-Berat himself to be honest) and he was great last night, but dare I say he’s on the cusp of phoning in his performance?  Maybe it was just an off-night for him.  Louis Hobson, as the doctors, gave a great performance as always.

Next to Normal is one of the only truly original and thought-provokding musicals on Broadway and it’s had a stellar run that it should be proud of, and I’m very happy that I was able to take it in once more.

(image via)

Next to Normal on Filmmaker Rob Reiner’s Movie Wish List

I think this would be really fantastic, but would they keep the music in it or simply flesh out the book?  I would really miss the score (I was reminded of how fantastic it is last night) but I think it could work either way.  Maybe Nicole Kidman or Cynthia Nixon as Diana?  I would vote for Cynthia Nixon, personally.  It might be too soon after Rabbit Hole for Nicole Kidman to be playing another mother-who’s-lost-her-son role, but maybe not. 

I was lucky enough to win lotto and saw Next to Normal last night, look out for the review soon!

Next to Normal on Filmmaker Rob Reiner’s Movie Wish List