American Psychoboth the Bret Easton Ellis novel and the Mary Harron-directed film led by Christian Balewould seem ripe for a musical treatment, given the omnipresent campy elements (despite, or maybe because of, the gore).
And, in 2010, a musical version of American Psycho was born. It premiered in London in 2013, starring actor Matt Smith (Doctor Who; Mapplethorpe; HBO's House of the Dragon), and featuring music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik. Now that musical is in Chicago (courtesy of Kokandy Productions), with queer actor Kyle Patrickwho's resided in Chicago since 2018 and who's been in local productions such as Sons of Hollywoodassuming the lead role of materialistic killer Patrick Bateman. Patrick recently talked with Windy City Times about the production's venue (The Chopin Theatre), his love of the theater and being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Note: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.
Windy City Times: I've never been to the Chopin. What is that space like?
Kyle Patrick: It's a fairly intimate setting. It's in the basement space and something that Kokandy does well with its productions is adjust the seating based on the show. So they're not limited to a proscenium that's built in. It's similar to how Windy City [Playhouse, where Sons of Hollywood ran] often did its productions.
So it's going to be very different from how the West End and Broadway did their productions.
WCT: So how did you become involved in theater?
KP: I started when I was pretty youngmiddle school-ish. I was thrown into a show, and I realized I liked being able to put on another person's skin for a while and then go back into real life. So I just continued that as an extracurricular activity until college, when I studied theater and acting on the camera and stage, as well as music. I studied at UNC [the University of North Carolina]-Chapel Hill in the classical-music school.
WCT: Regarding American Psycho: The Musical, what drew you to this role?
KP: Well, it's definitely a daunting task. It's really popular and Christian Bale does an excellent job. I mean, he had many months to prepare. Actually, he was originally slated to go in but then they hired Leonardo DiCapriobut Christian Bale was so convinced that DiCaprio would drop that he continued to prepare for nine months.
So, like I said, it's a daunting task but I think that it's a really interesting story that I get to take on because it really portrays a story about how people in the upper-class, white America are able to get away with almost anything they want and it can be covered up so easily. If you're familiar with the movie, Patrick Bateman tries to [confess] his sins and the world almost says, "Noyou're not allowed to. You need to be put back in this box of corporate America and continue [being] a cog in the machine." So it's definitely something I'm drawn to, as someone who doesn't exist in the upper 1 percentand getting to understand that from a safer place. [Laughs]
WCT: When Duncan Sheik spoke with Billboard a few years ago about the musical, he said that Patrick Bateman is "sort of the victim of the world in which he lives." Do you agree?
KP: I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to use the world "victim," [although] I might say he's victimized, because I think it's placed upon him. But he certainly grabbed it by the reins. We see him do a lot of awful things in the novel, which is extremely graphic. So I can't just say [Bateman] is a poor, innocent guy but I can certainly say that he definitely realizes there are some things going on that aren't right. He tries to confess but it does not go the way he expects it to.
WCT: So have you seen the movie or read the book quite oftenor are you trying to distance yourself from the movie and book, and create your own Patrick Bateman?
KP: I think there's a little bit of both.
I think, certainly, any smart actor knows that you should latch on to research. Certainly, Mary Harron provided an exceptional offering with the film. However, we're not trying to make a replication and there's no way to do so. Our director was very smart in saying, "If we, as Kokandy, try to go head to head with these studios that have millions of dollars, we will lose. But we can do what we can do well."
Circling back to the setup of the space, we're able to offer an intimate setting here and provide something that the audience can enjoy from the perspective that they might not expect. So we're not trying to replicateand I'm certainly not trying to replicate, because if I tried going up against Christian Bale, I'd be more intimated. [Laughs]
WCT: Even though it's a [gruesome] satire, there's a camp quality in American Psycho that practically lends itself to a musical. [Patrick nods.] I don't think a lot of people know that the musical has been around for a decade.
KP: Yes, and you're absolutely correct. There's so much camp in this show. It's a dark comedy that we put on the stage, so there are lots of opportunities for laughs. And people might think, "Waitam I allowed to laugh? This is kind of dark." When they think about that, they go, "Oh, wow. I'm a part of this worldthis extremely messed-up world."
And so it really invites the audience in a smart waywith laughter and comedyand then it forces them to see something about themselves. Patrick guides them along but I truly believe that everyone will see a bit of themselves in the show.
WCT: What's the most challenging aspect of this production for you?
KP: I think there are a lot of challenging parts. Certainly one that worried me coming into this was that, being a loving person, putting on this skin would be difficult. I was wondering how I would separate Kyle Patrick from Patrick Bateman. I am friendly and caring, so that was a concern.
As far as the character, I wanted to make sure I found the humanity in Patrick. It's extremely easy to come in and say, "I play a serial killer"but he's not just a serial killer. He's also in tune with his body and design names because consumerism and society have forced ourselves to look at those things. What was very difficult was finding the empathy for Patrick.
WCT: So is the singing challenging?
KP: Well, I'm working with [music director] Heidi [Joosten], and she is fantastic. She worked with Chicago Shakespeare recently on Beauty and the Beast; she is extremely talented. And I also have my own vocal instructor, Jackie King, in Rogers Park; she's queer and has a queer-safe studio.
We work on this music frequently so I'm reminded by both of them that it's not a sprint; it's a marathon. So we're finding places where I can rest within the music so I don't sing but tell a story.
WCT: I know non-queer actors taking on queer roles has been a hotly debated topic for years. Where do you stand on that?
KP: I know that many queer actors feel strongly that a queer person should play a queer character, and they're certainly entitled to believe what they want to believe. My personal opinion is that as long as queer actors continue to receive work across the gamut, then it is acceptable. However, I also believe that those people should also bring love to the community. Many times, I've seen a non-queer actor play a queer actor and they use queerness as the butt of a joke. It's really unfortunate because there are so many queer people who could bring true color and life to those characters. A prime example people use [regarding such a non-queer actor] is James Corden.
WCT: When you say James Corden, are you referring to The Prom or something else?
KP: The Prom is the most recent example but there are others. That was rather unfortunate casting.
WCT: This question is one that I've asked many people and have gotten many different answers: For you, what is it like being part of the LGBTQ+ community in today's America?
KP: Wowthat's such a big question.
I've played many a character that exists in so many different spaces of time and queerness, so I think I've got an extremely loving perception and perspective of the different time periods of queerness. It allows me to be grateful for what we have now, but there are always things to work on.
Playing in The Boys in the Band as Cowboy, it was such a different world to compare and contrast. It was a crime to be queer thenand it still happens now, but we're more protected and more allowed to be who we are. The words I would probably use are "grateful, but still working toward equality." And it's very heartening to see the younger generation step up to the plate and say, "I don't care what you think." Queerness is what queerness is, and love is love.
WCT: Would you like to add anything?
KP: I'm very excited for people to see this production. When it was in its development, Variety Magazine said the novel has literary complexity that they have to fitso it's interesting to see that complexity of the book and film on the stage. I'm very excited for people to see a more immersive side of this show. I think it strongly suits the text.
American Psycho: The Musical will run Sept. 14-Nov. 26 at The Chopin Studio Theatre, 1543 W. Division St. During the regular run, general admission passes are $40 each, with $50 for reserved seating; tickets for seniors and students are $30 each. Also, there will be a limited number of $15 tickets available for students and artists for each performance. Tickets are now on sale at bit.ly/AmericanPsychoChicago.