American Psycho idea: the serious novel as musical

Ever wondered what your favourite novels would look set to a dance routines? Or what they would sound like if given the camp cabaret treatment? No, me neither.

American Psycho idea: the serious novel as musical Or at least I hadn't – until it was recently revealed that Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho is currently in development to be turned into a musical.

It's enough to make you shudder – not the prospect of revisiting American Psycho's axe attacks and torture scenes (or banal attention to pointless detail) but the very thought of "musical theatre", two words that fill any discerning musical, theatrical or bookish snob with disdain. I'm totally prejudiced, of course - the last musical I saw was We Will Rock You, whose plot was so incomprehensible that I walked out halfway through.

Literature and theatre have long enjoyed a far from symbiotic relationship. Literature has given theatre some of its most successful musicals ever – Les Misérables (based on the writing of Victor Hugo), Cats (TS Eliot), Phantom of the Opera (Gaston Leroux) and Oliver! (Dickens) to name but four – while musicals have given us jazz hands, Bonnie Langford, the Time Warp and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It hardly seems a fair trade-off.

American Psycho is, of course, a satire on those materialistic wealthy men and women who defined Wall Street – and by extension, America – in the 1980s; and in the case of its most unreliable narrator Patrick Bateman, an individual for whom the American Dream was not quite enough. Maybe such a narrative arc – riches to, er, riches – wouldn't be so strange set to music. After all, American Psycho tackles Big Themes like life, death, capitalism and morality. And it is full of musical references to Huey Lewis & The News, Phil Collins and Whitney Houston. And it is funny.

There's also the setting to consider: the barren sterility of Bateman's apartment with its view over the magical, twinkling skyline of Manhattan would transfer well, as would the formal look of tailored pin-striped suits and Brooks Brothers shirts. Yes, perhaps American Psycho could make for an unlikely hit musical after all.

If that's the case, it could pave the way for a new wave of contemporary novels receiving highly inappropriate musical adaptations. With its sinister "Singing In The Rain' sequence and heavy use of Beethoven, A Clockwork Orange has already been treated to a more or less musical version, with Bono and the Edge supplying what Burgess himself described as a "neo-wallpaper" score that didn't get as far as the West End or Broadway after very tepid reviews. The Buddha Of Suburbia and 1984 received screen adaptations that were but a shuffle-hop-step away from musicals and could surely tempt an enterprising impresario. But perhaps these choices are way too obvious.

Personally I'd pay through the nose to see Ulysses given a full-on, improvised free jazz production – or maybe Solzhenitsyn's One Day in The Life Of Ivan Denisovich with music by ... I don't know, Jedward. Imagine that, or can you razzle-dazzle me with some better ideas...?

Powered by article was written by Ben Myers, for on Thursday 23rd December 2010 10.03 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010