“I said, `This is a terrible idea,'” the Grammy- and Tony-winning singer-songwriter admitted in a phone interview from Boston this week.
Now Sheik, who had the 1996 smash-hit single “Barely Breathing” and is the songwriter of the hit musical “Spring Awakening,” finds himself deep in the process of trying to ready a stage version of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel “American Psycho.”
Sheik and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa are about halfway done. Aguirre-Sacasa, a comic book writer who recently worked on HBO’s “Big Love,” has completed the first act and Sheik has written seven songs.
“Now we’re in the thick of it,” said Sheik, 41. “There’s a pretty long road still to go, but I’m psyched about it. The more time I spend on it, the more excited I get about it.”
The 1991 novel — later made into a 2000 movie starring Christian Bale — chronicles a homicidal New York yuppie named Patrick Bateman who is obsessed with high-end clothes and beauty products even as he slashes his way through Manhattan. Bateman also fancies himself as a bit of a music critic, but spews out mostly inane ruminations about Genesis and Huey Lewis and the News.
Sheik remembers buying the novel when he was an undergraduate at Brown University, but only got about halfway through it before throwing it across the room. “I found the book really frustrating,” he says.
After being approached by producers at The Johnson-Roessler Co. a few years ago, Sheik was skeptical but bought the book again and finished it. After struggling to find a way into the work as a composer, he soon seized on dance music and electronic pop as its soundscape.
For the show, he envisions a four- or five-member band on stage with synthesizers and drum machines, a nod to moody bands like Kraftwerk or Depeche Mode. “It’ll probably be 75 percent Duncan Sheik music and 25 percent music of the era and referenced in the book and/or movie.”
With the musical still far from done, Sheik isn’t sure where it should debut. Though he hopes it will get to Broadway someday, he says the work about a singing serial killer might start off in London or at a theater festival or off-Broadway.
The audience might be in for a wild ride.
“I’m hoping this piece can make ‘Spring Awakening’ look like ‘The Wedding Singer,'” he says, laughing.