Beetlejuice comes to a close at the National Theatre in Washington DC this weekend. Once it closes, the show is headed for Broadway this spring, and oh boy...I haven’t been this excited for a show in a very long time.
Beetlejuice the Musical is based on the 1988 Tim Burton movie of the same name. It’s about a couple (Adam and Barbara) who dies and tries to haunt the new family (Charles, Lydia, and Delia) who move into their house. When they realize they aren’t frightening enough to scare them off, they bring in Beetlejuice to get the job done. Things, of course, don’t exactly go as planned. The musical adaptation of the film (with a book written by Scott Brown and Anthony King and music and lyrics by Eddie Perfect) is batshit insane in the best possible way. The musical takes the strange and unusual feel of the movie and gives it to the audience for two and a half hours of “parents be advised” entertainment.
Beetlejuice as a character is bonkers in the most fun and perverted sense of the word. That character is brought to life by Tony nominee Alex Brightman. His portrayal of Beetlejuice is raunchy, sarcastic and just like the film, but at the same time it is absolutely different. His depiction of the dastardly demon is surprisingly less all over the place: there's a method to his madness and a reason for his obsession with the living. Casting Brightman in the role of Beetlejuice was inspired. The man has a way of commanding a stage and keeping the audience intrigued at all times. From the opener, “The Whole Being Dead Thing”, to the penultimate “Creepy Old Guy”, he brought the hilariously twisted Beetlejuice to life.
Brightman may play the titular character in Beetlejuice, but whenever Sophia Anne Caruso stepped on stage, you knew this was her show. Caruso’s Lydia brought the house down every time she opened her mouth. Caruso perfected the art of versatility, as she displayed every emotion under the sun with meaning and genuinity. She falls apart during her call for help (“Dead Mom”), she's cunning when meeting Beetlejuice (“Say My Name”) and she's surprisingly menacing when she develops a knack for haunting innocent passersby (“That Beautiful Sound”). And the voice she has on her? I had no idea a voice that big could come out of a girl that small, but she does have a big one, and a spectacular one at that. This girl isn’t a star. She’s a supernova.
Rob McClure and Kerry Butler as newly-dead couple Adam and Barbara are hilariously naive and bring a sweet innocence to a rather naughty show. Their brand of quirky comedy is a welcome delight amongst the abundance of innuendos this show offers. McClure and Butler also give a layer of depth to these characters unseen in the movie. In the film, it is briefly glossed over that the pair is unable to have a child. In the musical, this issue is tackled head first in numbers like “Ready Set, Not Yet” and “Children We Didn’t Have.” The two of them make a fabulous team.
Lydia’s father, Charles, is played by Adam Dannheisser. He paints the picture of a grieving husband trying to move on very well. While the character is meant to not be liked throughout most of the production, Dannheisser is still able to make Charles a relatable character. “Running Away,” the duet between Charles and Lydia, is about their grief over Emily. It is the song with the most character development. This is especially true for Charles, and that's due to the two of them conveying a convincing father/daughter duo.
Leslie Kritzer brings a newly adapted Delia to the stage. Instead of being an artist, she works for Charles and the two are sleeping together. Her role in the show is more complex this way. She struggles with wanting a relationship but wanting to keep her job, all while trying to find a way to fit into the family in a way that doesn't make Lydia feel like she's trying to replace her mother. She tries to console the girl in “No Reason”, but doesn't get very far. She means well, but things tend to go over her head throughout this show. I find this new version of Delia much more likable and interesting, and it's thanks to Kritzer’s portrayal of her.
Beetlejuice has a remarkable ensemble. The show has so much more dancing than I expected and they're big dance numbers. Connor Gallagher did a bang up job with this production. The way these performers are a coherent unit while also having individualized personalities is so much fun to watch on stage.
It's very rare that I see the set of a musical as an additional character, but with what David Korins created, matched with the off-kilter lighting design of Kenneth Posner, I didn't have a choice but to watch the set and lights with just as much excitement as I did while watching the show.
After I watched Beetlejuice the film, I understood completely why Alex Timbers was chosen as the director for its musical adaptation. His fresh out-of-the-box vision was perfect for this kooky romp. Matched with Gallagher, Korins and Posner, along with writers Brown, King, and Perfect, it's no wonder this show turned out to be as wildly entertaining as it is.
Beetlejuice film fans will appreciate that songs featured in the movie will also be featured in the musical. I hope fans will enjoy the changes made to the original concept as much as I did. Some aspects of the plot are different, as it is with most movie-to-musical adaptations, but I think the changes were needed (and, at least for me, they were welcomed). Beetlejuice is the most beautifully chaotic musical I've seen in a long time.
It's (almost) showtime, New York! Trust me, you do not want to miss this show when it hits the Winter Garden. Previews begin March 28 with an opening slated for April 25th, 2019. For tickets and information, you can check out the Beetlejuice website.
(Photo by Polk & Co.)