A New York Theatre Guide to... Beetlejuice!
Here's all you need to know about the ghoulishly fabulous Broadway premiere of Beetlejuice...
Welcome to your New York Theatre Guide to Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice… BEETLEJUICE!!! The brand new Broadway musical, based on the much loved 1988 Tim Burton cult classic, is now officially open and haunting the Winter Garden Theatre eight times a week and we’re here to give you the full low-down on this spooktacular new production…
What’s it all about?
Die-hard fans of the 1988 movie are sure to notice that although many of the key ingredients of Michael McDowell and Larry Wilson’s original screenplay have been preserved for this Broadway adaptation, book writers Scott Brown and Anthony King have been given free rein to create a new story that seems familiar and surprising in equal measures. The main focus of the musical centers on the character of teenager Lydia, who has recently lost her mother and harbors an unhealthy obsession with death. Meanwhile, a perfectly ordinary suburban couple, Barbara and Adam, become the victims of a tragic accident in their home and are forced to watch on helplessly as Lydia, her emotionally-constipated father Charles and her “life coach” Delia (who also happens to be Charles’ new lover) move in and throw out all of their possessions. The “strange and unusual” Lydia is the only one who can actually see the house’s past owners and strikes up a friendship with the ghostly pair. However, they each have very different motives. Lydia wishes the recently diseased to help her fetch her mother back from the Netherworld, whilst Barbara and Adam want to scare off Charles and Delia and get their home back, instead of being stuck in the attic. When Lydia calls on the help of the demonic specter known as Beetlejuice (by saying his name three times), all hell (literally) breaks loose… This musical, which joyfully celebrates “The Whole Being Dead Thing” (as the first big number tells us), is actually about making the most of life and nurturing relationships with your loved ones, whilst you still can.
Who is starring in it?
The original principal cast of Beetlejuice is headlined by Alex Brightman as “The Ghost with the Most” himself, giving a raucous tour-de-force performance that is simply to die for. Alex is perhaps best known for originating the leading role of Dewey Finn in School of Rock: The Musical, which earned him his first Tony Award nomination in 2016. Alongside him in the original cast is Sophia Anne Caruso, who has landed her first starring role on Broadway as the delightfully quirky Lydia, as well as Broadway veterans such as Rob McClure (a 2013 Tony Award nominee for his performance in the titular role of Chaplin) and Kerry Butler (a 2008 Tony nominee for Xanadu) as Adam and Barbara, respectively. Another standout performance comes from Leslie Kritzer, who proves her comedy chops and knocks it out of the park as Delia.
What’s special about this production?
Unlike many Broadway productions, Beetlejuice begins the moment you set foot inside the theatre, long before the curtain rises. The Winter Garden has been redecorated with green and purple light bulbs throughout the entire auditorium and - coupled with the pre-show, eerie music and swooping, purple lighting effects - you feel you’ve instantly taken a trip to the Netherworld yourself. My hat also goes off to the extraordinary creative team for this production. With the blessings of the famed film director himself, the whole familiar Tim Burton aesthetic has been loyally recreated on stage with fantastic sets by David Korins and otherworldly costumes by William Ivey Long. The way the set fuses with Kenneth Posner’s lighting design and Peter Nigrini’s projections is simply breath-taking and represents the pinnacle of Broadway stagecraft. The cherry on the cake for this production has to be Michael Curry’s puppet design that includes (but is not limited to) a roast hog that re-animates itself and attacks cast members and, of course, a monstrous sandworm that makes a number of welcomed appearances. Finally, Beetlejuice fans can rest assured that, alongside Eddie Perfect’s catchy original score, the two Harry Belafonte calypso tracks that were immortalised in the 1988 film – “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jump in the Line (Shake, Señora)” – also get a Broadway make-over in this production.
Who would we recommend it to?
Beetlejuice is not just for Tim Burton aficionados or for those that take special delight in macabre creations like The Addams Family, but also for those who like their theatre experiences bursting with special effects and eye-popping illusions. An added bonus if you are a keen theatre enthusiast is the fact that the title character also lovingly sends up Broadway musicals of the past, rather like the similarly outrageous production of The Book of Mormon. We should warn you that the production contains a fair amount of profanities and obscene gestures, so may not be recommended for the conservative amongst you, but for those of you who don’t mind your theatre trips a little R-rated, Beetlejuice will have you rolling in your graves… Oops, we mean rolling in the aisles!
Beetlejuice Tickets are available now.
(Production photos by Matthew Murphy)