Lights of Broadway: Beetlejuice




Beetlejuice:

Synopsis: Lydia Deetz is a strange and unusual teenager who is obsessed with the whole “being dead thing.” Lucky for Lydia, her new house is haunted by a recently deceased couple and a degenerate demon who happens to have a thing for stripes. When Lydia calls on this ghost-with-the-most to scare away her insufferable parents, Beetlejuice comes up with the perfect plan, which involves exorcism, arranged marriages and an adorable girl scout who gets scared out of her wits.


Review:

After closing at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 11, 2020, to make way for the opening of the star-studded Music Man, Beetlejuice was able to find itself a new home in the Marquis Theatre after a clamouring for its return cropped up during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unusual in its transfer from one venue to the next, the show despite closing, is not considered a revival as it is the same with regards to much of the cast, set, costumes, and overall interpretation of Scott Brown and Anthony King’s book. Its re-opening, occurring on April 8, 2022, is turning this show into what could be another staple on the Great White Way.


For those unfamiliar with Beetlejuice, it is the story of the passing of Lydia’s mother and the trauma that comes from the death of a family member within the nuclear sphere of her life. Lydia’s father purchases a house that was previously owned by the recently deceased Adam and Barbara Maitland, who still reside in the house and have not passed over to the netherworld. In walks the demonic undead Beetlejuice, who has feelings of loneliness and wants nothing more than to go out and terrorize the world, but to do that, he needs to get a living person to say his name “3 times never broken.” To convince a human, he enlists the help of the gullible suburban Maitland’s and Lydia. Eventually being released from his invisibility to cause havoc and mayhem in the house. Eventually realizing do to the presence of giant sand worms outside, Beetlejuice cannot leave unless made human by marrying Lydia. Despite being a show about death and carrying the heavy theme of exploration of the grief process, Beetlejuice was a 2.5-hour comedic musical.


Starting as Beetlejuice is two-time Tony nominee Alex Brightman, and the original Beetlejuice from the Winter Garden run. Delivering some of the best comedic lines of the show, this ghoulish performance is exactly what helped move along the plot and lighten up some of the heavier moments. At the end of his rope and fearing he would always be alone, he finishes out “On the Roof,” a song about feeling invisible, by uttering the iconic lyric “Jason Derulo.” Lydia, the rambunctious and death-obsessed teen still mourning her mother, is played by Elizabeth Teeter, who delivered some powerful emotionally driven moments, while at times she showed some weaker moments vocally, the acting was more than enough to make up for it. Kerry Butler and David Josefberg as the Maitland’s were exactly what you would desire and expect from the picturesque All-American family, that as the show went on, expertly grew both in vocal prowess and outward expression. Both Kerry and David delivered some of the best performances as the “straight men” of the show to the scenery-chewing around them. Rounding out the lead cast are Leslie Kritzer as the life coach turned stepmother Delia, and Adam Dannheisser as Lydia’s repressed, business mogul father Charles. Both delivered by far some of the most underrated performances of the show as some of the few “livings.”


The book for Beetlejuice was spectacularly executed, playing on the satirical nature of the original 1988 film, this staged adaptation is hit after hit of references to shows familiar to Broadway and currently running. From Beetlejuice accidentally handing a business card for “Dolly Levi - Matchmaking services” to the lines from the current run of Company peppered in throughout the show. The book feels refreshing and clever, while also accessible to the average theatre goer who may not pick up on the references.


As this is a musical, there must be an accompanying score to provide us with the songs. Eddie Perfect’s music and lyrics are what dazzle and further the impact of the show’s overall story. The soundtrack features just about every genre you could think of while delivering witty lines. As this is a show about death, the opening number “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing” shakes away any thought that the show is anything but a comedy.


Beetlejuice brings in the audience to let them know that they should “relax, as it’s all fine” and that we should “drink [our] $50 wine.” A perfect opening to a show that could easily tip heavy-handed.


Rounding out the creative team to make note of is David Korins stunning scenic design featuring a well-executed set that for the most part remained static whilst every time it vanished behind a curtain would come back with brand new wallpaper and motif, lending the house to feel like it too was a character adapting and changing as the characters went on their journey. Costume design by William Ivey Long captured the feel from the 1988 movie while still bringing in a modern feel to them that was eye-catching and captivating. Lastly, the puppet design by Michael Curry lent the biggest triumph of the show. Despite Beetlejuice letting us know at the beginning of the show “sometimes puppet shows are sad,” there is nothing but joy for Michael Curry’s many puppets. From the enormous Sand Snake to the smaller scaled objects, the puppets enhanced the narrative as opposed to distracting it.


Overall, Beetlejuice was a pleasant and surprisingly unexpected delight. Despite the weaker vocal performance from the leading lady, the show as a whole felt fresh and fun, especially when compared to the many heavy-themed shows that tend to open on Broadway. I do hope we see a long run for Beetlejuice as the show lends itself perfectly to the NYC tourist hoping to take in the grandeur of a big city spectacle performance, without paying Hamilton prices. Beetlejuice is a solid 4 out of 5 stars.


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