Beetlejuice on Broadway is Amazing! Amazing! Amazing!
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
On July 31st, 2019, I found myself at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City to attend my first Broadway show; Beetlejuice: the Musical! Beetlejuice is based on Tim Burton’s cult classic film; revamped for the stage by Scott Brown and Anthony King, with original music and lyrics by Eddie Perfect. Directed by Alex Timbers, this production is guaranteed to send more than one shiver up your spine and tickle your funny bone!
Following a plot line similar to the original film, the musical focuses on the recently deceased Adam and Barbara Maitland, who turn to ‘bio-exorcist’ Beetlejuice when their former home is inhabited by the wealthy Deetz family. The Maitlands begin to haunt the house, hoping to scare away the newcomers. The two ghosts quickly form an unexpected bond with Lydia Deetz, a teenage girl mourning the loss of her mother. Beetlejuice works to aid the three in hopes that he can convince Lydia to summon him by saying his name three times.
Brown and King have taken the best of the cult film and rounded it out into a heartwarming piece of theatre; which is even more thrilling than the source material. The book artfully adds structure and depth, while still maintaining the well-known Tim Burton campiness. While there are moments within the script that are conveniently placed, the overall awareness of the story narrative prevents these aspects from becoming jarring. Beetlejuice’s tongue-in-cheek awareness is brilliantly paired with comedic genius and a surprising depth.
While the death of Lydia’s mother is ghosted over in the original film, the show tackles it head on – making this self-proclaimed “show about death” a show about the grieving process, and life after death; for both those who have passed on and for the living left behind.
In the titular role of Beetlejuice, Alex Brightman defies the laws of physics. A true definition of a triple threat, he expertly maneuvers his way through the show with seemingly limitless energy. Within the show, Beetlejuice not only serves as the sickeningly hilarious antagonist, but the narrator of the story as well. Brightman is a master of all trades, transitioning through multiple styles with ease. From tongue in cheek, to risqué; every joke is crisp and served with finesse. Vocally, he has a similar effect; from speech quality to a rock belt – every single moment of his performance is hand carved to perfection. Alex Brightman has truly mastered his craft in this electric, Tony-Nominated performance.
Alongside Brightman, Tony-Nominee Sophia Anne Caruso leads the show as Lydia Deetz. Despite only recently having turned eighteen years old, Caruso graces the stage with the presence, class, and stamina of an actress twice her age. Caruso’s powerhouse performance brings a softness to the deadpan, death-obsessed Lydia; providing a warm centre to the show. Though the story is largely rooted in fantasy, Lydia’s journey through the grieving process becomes the most realistic piece of the show, thanks to Caruso’s detailed portrayal.
Beetlejuice is a production full of some of Broadway’s brightest comedic talents including Alex Brightman, Kerry Butler, Rob McClure, and Leslie Kritzer - and Sophia Anne Caruso has rightly earned her place alongside these stars.
Kerry Butler and Rob McClure sparkle with chemistry as Barbara and Adam Maitland; a couple who suddenly find themselves recently deceased. This brilliant onstage pairing is all heart, comedic timing, and killer vocals.
Comedy queen Leslie Kritzer is also among the stand-outs in the role of Delia Deetz; Lydia’s eccentric life coach and potential stepmother. Kritzer is electric and elastic, proving herself to be a master of physical comedy. Doubling as Miss Argentina, there seems to be no limit to her versatility within this production.
The star power of the cast is met perfectly by the technical prowess of the production. Beetlejuice is pure spectacle, and the best part of it all is how the technical aspects of the show serve the story without overwhelming the audience. David Korins has created a set which extends into the audience, all the way to the very back of the house. The minute ticket-holders enter, they are submersed into the show by low lighting, neon signs, and a copious amounts of dry ice. It’s an instantaneous introduction to the world of Beetlejuice, coaxing theatregoers to, quite literally, leave reality at the door.
Aiding this stunning escape from reality are costumes by industry legend William Ivey Long, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, sound design by Peter Hylenski, and gorgeous projections by Peter Nigrini. The wow-factor for Beetlejuice does not stop there, and the show goes above and beyond theatre magic with puppetry designed by Michael Curry, special effects created by Jeremy Chernick, and magic and illusion designed by Michael Weber – leaving the technical genius of the show unrivaled.
Every moment of Beetlejuice was absolutely thrilling. Not only has this show raised the bar for the Broadway musical, but it continues to challenge itself as it progresses. Audience members found themselves wondering how the next joke, special effect, or belted note could possibly top the one that came before it - and were beyond ecstatic when it did! A show cannot live on special effects alone, and the talents onstage at Beetlejuice are not overshadowed by the incredible technical pieces, but provide a heartwarming story to support the spectacle.
Beetlejuice is pure theatre magic, and I cannot recommend a trip to the Netherworld enough!