The Martin Shkreli musical is bound for Off-Broadway, just as the 'pharma bro' heads to trial

Patrick Swailes Caldwell rehearses his character of “Martin Shkreli” for the Manhattan premiere of the musical “Martin Shkreli’s Game: How Bill Murray Joined the Wu-Tang Clan”
Source: Silvia Saponaro and Philip Lee

Like a rare disease that you can't afford to treat because it would require a ridiculously expensive pill, Martin Shkreli the Musical is baaaaaaaaaaaaack — and it's got a brand-new name.

The satirical play based on the drug company executive-turned-national troll is returning to New York this spring for an Off-Broadway run — set to end right before the start of Shkreli's real-life criminal trial on securities fraud charges.

The scathing portrayal of the flippant pharma bro' premiered last summer for a limited, Off-Off-Broadway run as part of a Manhattan film festival.

The show played six performances to sold-out, albeit small, audiences, which included some unamused friends of Shkreli.

The musical at the time was entitled, somewhat laboriously, "Martin Shkreli's Game: How Bill Murray Joined the Wu-Tang Clan."

The new iteration's title gets to the point quicker: "Pharma Bro: An American Douchical!"

But the show, set to run from May 11 to June 18 at the Players Theater in Greenwich Village, still features a bizarre imagining of an internet rumor that spread about Shkreli, as well as references to the many bizarre things about the online provocateur that happen to be true.

The rumor claimed that the actor Bill Murray was somehow legally empowered to steal back for the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan a single-copy album, "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin," that they had sold to Shkreli for $2 million, only to have second thoughts about doing so.

Martin Shkreli is sworn in to testify at a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on Capitol Hill, February 4, 2016.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

When the musical was announced last year, and after it premiered, "it got so much attention that it seemed viable for a larger run," said Lauren Gundrum, who wrote the show's book and lyrics.

"I think we were kind of surprised that it picked up so much steam in the first place," Gundrum said.

Fueling that attention was widespread media coverage about Shkreli's raising the price of an AIDS drug from $13.50 per pill to $750 — as well as of his indictment on charges of ripping off a drug company he founded out of millions of dollars to pay off investors he was accused of defrauding at his hedge fund.

When the Players Theater offered a chance for the show to return during a block of dates that would lead up to Shkreli's trial in late June, "we jumped on it," said Joel Esher, who wrote music and some of the lyrics for the show.

Reprising his depiction of a gleefully spiteful and maniacal Shkreli will be the actor Patrick Swailes Caldwell, whose memorable lines include "I'm filthy f----- rich, and I do whatever the f--- I want to do!"

"We thought he did an amazing job of capturing the essence of Shkreli, and bringing it to the stage in a very comic-book, over-the-top way," Esher said of Caldwell.

Caldwell's research for the role included eyeballing Shkreli in person at a court hearing last year.

"Also, he can ride a hoverboard, which is pretty cool," Esher said. Caldwell uses the device to glide around onstage.

Some other cast members from the prior run will also return.

The show will add a new element to act as "sort of like a Greek chorus" for the story, a group of news reporters who will "very intentionally inject things that aren't part of the real-life narrative," Esher said.

That might please Shkreli, 33, who has a deep disdain for the media.

Shkreli, who has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges and claims he committed no wrongdoing, passed on offers to attend the show last summer.

But he used his then-favorite social media tool Twitter to send Gundrum a message on the night of the premiere.

"Heard the play sucked. Sorry that you are liberal and poor," Shkreli wrote her.

CNBC can't link to that actual tweet because Shkreli's Twitter account was suspended earlier this year for his harassment of a female journalist in a series of tweets.

Asked if the offer still stood for Shkreli to attend one of the upcoming 28 performances, Gundrum laughed and said, "Oh yeah, always."

"We'll comp him and a guest," Esher said.

"Many guests," Gundrum added.