‘Beetlejuice: The Musical’ is filled with twists and surprises

Pascack Valley senior Jason Leibfried saw the Broadway musical “Beetlejuice: The Musical, The Musical, The Musical

Jason Leibfried

Pascack Valley senior Jason Leibfried saw the Broadway musical “Beetlejuice: The Musical, The Musical, The Musical" at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York. The show follows Lydia as she handles the death of her mom.

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A giant neon sign reading “Betelgeuse Betelgeuse” and a Tim Burton-esque proscenium capped off with purple and pink lights swirling around the theatre? Add a little “Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!” and you are in for the fright of your life.

Recently, I saw the Broadway Musical “Beetlejuice: The Musical, The Musical, The Musical (which for the sake of the article, will just be referred to as Beetlejuice)” at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York. The show follows Lydia as she tries to cope with the death of her mom. The musical was one of the most nominated shows at the 2019 Tony Awards, with 8 nominations including Best Musical.

Part of me was worried when “Beetlejuice” announced it was opening on Broadway since the movie seems like it would be almost impossible to transfer to a live stage production. Luckily, it was brilliantly casted with hard-working actors and a talented creative team that was not afraid to change up the story to make it work.

Overview

Directed by Alex Timbers (“Moulin Rouge!”), the show is an astonishing spectacle that has a catchy score by Eddie Perfect (“King Kong”) and a book by Scott Brown and Anthony King. It hosts favorite moments from the original movie, with the iconic scene “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” at dinner featured, as well as many more. 

Besides the iconic moments recreated, similarities to the 1988 movie end. While your favorite characters remain similar, the musical creates its own story inspired by the events of the movie. They acknowledge this, as at the beginning of the show, the character Betelgeuse jokes, saying “And such a bold departure from the original source material!”

The show opens up with Lydia, a teenager obsessed with death following her mom’s passing. Her father, Charles, and Lydia’s therapist and life coach, Delia, decide to move to the suburbs for a fresh start. Forces go against Lydia’s wishes as Delia suddenly becomes her new stepmom and her father refuses to act as his wife ever existed. 

They then move into a haunted house and Lydia befriends newcomer ghosts, Barbara and Adam Maitland.  Originally, the Maitlands were trying to scare away her family but began to help Lydia in her mental crisis. Betelgeuse, the ghost who everyone knows, has different plans. 

Plot

“Beetlejuice” makes a lot of changes to the plot, which works out better in my opinion, since the show has more depth. The characters are given more of a backstory and the story has heart to it rather than the comedic film which just tells the story of ghosts who are trying to scare away the new owners.

The storyline is very complex, and while Act One is easy to follow, Act Two gets a little complicated. Both acts are a lot of fun, but Act One of the show is more musically-structured compared to Act Two. 

The second act is packed with musical scenes and numbers that really do not do anything to advance the story. The Act Two opener is a big and flashy Broadway-style musical number, but it had no real story development. The song actually contradicts further plot elements in the musical, with this number being about how Lydia is happy, yet half an hour later, runs away. 

The plot also gets pretty confusing during the second act. While over-filled, it has a lot of heart throughout, including a touching ballad sung by Lydia titled “Home,” where the character has a breakdown about missing her mom. Even though the second act is crazy, I still really enjoyed the show and had so much fun — I even saw it again.

Characters

Tony Nominee Alex Brightman (“School of Rock”), who plays the title character, sings and acts in a “Beetlejuice” inspired voice. He is one of the many reasons to see this show and his jokes are a major highlight. Referencing many musicals from “Brigadoon” to “Hamilton,” he has the audience laughing throughout the whole show.

Two cast members that particularly stood out were Lydia, played by Sophia Anne Caruso (“Blackbird”) and Delia, played by Leslie Kritzer (“Legally Blonde,” “Hairspray”). The two characters are very different, yet both portrayed wonderfully by their actors on stage. Caruso sings four powerful ballads throughout the show and Kritzer is hilarious to watch on stage, especially during the Act One Finale “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).”

The show also stars Rob McClure (“Something Rotten”) and Kerry Butler (“Mean Girls”) as Adam and Barbara Maitland, whose great chemistry together were entertaining to watch. The entire cast looks like they have so much fun depicting these characters and performing this musical together, which is engaging as an audience member. 

Production

The production design of this show is jaw-dropping, with elaborate sets, a plethora of minuscule details and references to the film, colorful lighting, projection design, and the iconic final scene where Lydia levitates live on the stage without any wires. 

The main set of the house transforms multiple times throughout the show, from the Maitland’s old-fashioned and charming look to Betelgeuse’s crazy circus sideshow, and even to the set of a new game show “Wheel of MisFortune.” These transformations are achieved by using a brilliant combination of projections and practical effects.

The sound design is crazy, lighting design is wacky, and the projections are brilliantly done. A cool feature about the show is when items start off as a projection they turn into a real set element the next time you look at it, which is pretty magical to watch. 

The show carries the instantly recognizable Tim Burton style throughout the show, for the lovers of the movie, but adjusts it in order to fit the atmosphere of a Broadway musical. If you are interested in technical design of theatre, this show is a dream to watch. 

Although “Beetlejuice” may not be the best or most innovative show, it is enormously fun. In no other show on Broadway will you have dancing skeletons, gigantic snakes, a conductor with a shrunken head, and a green-skinned pageant winner all within the short span of two hours.

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