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Duncan Sheik has words for Ryan Murphy!

I know you were anxiously waiting for it, so here is the second part of my interview with the SPRING AWAKENING and AMERICAN PSYCHO composer Duncan Sheik when he was in San Diego at the Cygnet Theatre. The last article was all about SPRING AWAKENING  but now we move on to the development of new projects like getting youth involved in theatre and creating  AMERICAN PSYCHO.

Using the photo twice just to brag, because I am a brat
Using the photo twice just to brag, because I am a brat

SPRING AWAKENING has many distinctive features, but one those features was that it has a very young cast and anyone who has seen television lately knows that there is from his cast came fan musical favorites like Lea Michele and Jonathon Groff.  So what are his thoughts on developing youth in theatre?

“It’s brilliant when young kids can – when you provide them with opportunities to do theatre.  I was disconnected to theatre during my high school years, but up until I was twelve I did a lot of shows and it was very formative for me,” Sheik says. “ Even though I stiff-armed it for two decades, I do understand that it was an important part of my musical development and it’s nice to give back in some way.”

Another show of his that is already making a mark on the theatre world and getting a buzz from younger theatre attendees is Sheik’s new project AMERICAN PSYCHO.  Having just finished a run in London staring Matt Smith, this show already has a strong buzz about it.  Based on the controversial 1991 novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis, the show has music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik and a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. So how did that project come about?

“There is a young guy in LA who is a fledgling film and TV producer and he had this idea that he wanted to turn “American Psycho” into a stage musical.  He’s never done any theatre before but he went to Bret and got the rights for it and then he got in touch with Roberto Sacasa and myself.  At this time Roberto hadn’t done “Spiderman” and he wasn’t the head writer on “Glee”, but he was writing “Big Love” and he had done some really cool theatre stuff before. I had a lot of trepidation at first, because when I read the book in college and I really didn’t like the book.  I loved Bret’s first book “Less Than Zero”, but when I read “American Psycho” I was pretty put off by it, for a variety of reasons not just the violence. But also just the repetitiveness, it was just annoying to book to me.  But when I read it twenty years later it was both incredibly trenchant.  All the stuff that he talks about in that book about food and clothes is where the culture went entirely, with capitalism.  So I thought that I had to do this.”

What Sheik is doing with the score is also something that is exciting to him for this new musical.
“I also thought this was a good opportunity to write a score for a piece of theatre where the entire sonic palette is completely electronic.  I think that’s happened in plays but never really in musicals before. Because electronic music in America, it’s been hip and happening in for the past five years but in Europe it’s been the dominant form of pop music for 25 years.  So it was kind of a no brainer to me.  Like in SPRING AWAKENING I was trying to say ‘look the wider culture is listening to indie rock, why can’t we have that musical aesthetic onstage?’  Similarly with  it was ‘the wider culture is listening to electronic dance music or techno, whatever you genre of it you want to call it, so why can’t this be on stage as well”

Speaking of developing youth, creating new works, and working with people with ‘Glee’, Sheik has some strong feelings to share with Ryan Murphy.

“I have a major bone to pick with Ryan Murphy, he stole my entire cast and he didn’t even put a single song in his TV show. Come on dude, fair is fair!  Next time I see Ryan Murphy there will be words.”

I cannot wait for that showdown!

SPRING AWAKENING at the Cygnet Theatre March 6 – April 27, 2014. Show times are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 7pm.
Tickets can be purchased by visiting Cygnet’s website at or by calling the box office at 619-337-1525. Cygnet’s box office and theatre are located at the Old Town Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St. in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.


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