Review: Beetlejuice, the Musical

Pictured (L-R): Isabella Esler (Lydia) and Justin Collette (Beetlejuice)
Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022

Beetlejuice, the Musical
Paramount Theatre
Through April 07, 2024 get tickets and more info here.

If it’s a big hit in Hollywood, then sooner or later it will appear on the Broadway stage. Beetlejuice, the Musical is the latest screen-to-stage adaptation to tour the country. Currently playing at the Paramount Theatre, the musical (based on the hit classic film) is playing a short time, and will be gone before you can say the name three times.

Lydia is a teenager that has just lost her mother. The loss has sent her into a place where she becomes fascinated with death and all things dark. Her father is trying to make a new start, and is having an affair with Delia, Lydia’s life coach. When the trio moves into a new home, they realize that it is possessed by Barbara and Adam, the previous couple that were living there, before their untimely death. The deceased couple were ‘normal’ and ‘boring’ during life, and their deaths don’t seem to have changed much. While trying to scare the new residents, they encounter a demon named Beetlejuice, an undead creature trying to become alive once more. The secret to his re-entrance to mortality, is to have someone still living say his name three times in succession. Lydia’s schemes to get her father and Delia to leave backfire, and so she has no other resource but to say the name “three times spoken and unbroken”, to enlist the help of the demon himself.

The Beetlejuice cast is good and they all entertain well. Megan McGinnis plays Barbara, the square housewife that dies tragically. Ms. McGinnis does the role with the right amount of mousy behavior needed for the understated role. Will Burton plays Adam quite in the same manner. While they are two of the lead roles their stage presence is not much, and leaves very little room for any kind of stand out performance. Both characters were ‘average’ and did a ‘fine’ job, not memorable, with the way the roles were written.

Isabella Esler plays Lydia, the tragic teenage star of the show. Her voice is strong and she does well with the song “Dead Mom” (one of the few standout songs in the show) in an upbeat manner. Ms. Esler brings the angst to the character with a touch of playfulness. The audience doesn’t get much emotional depth from her, but she is there to play the ‘straight man’ for the title character.

Justin Collette does a very good job in the title role. His manic behavior doesn’t try to impersonate Michael Keaton (except for maybe the voice, which sounds like Harvey Fierstein on a good day) and definitely makes the role his own. There are plenty of times to steal the scene, and Mr. Collette does not hesitate a single moment to do just that. He’s fun to watch and he delivers.

Pictured (L-R): Isabella Esler (Lydia), Will Burton (Adam) and Megan McGinnis (Barbara)
Photo by Dan Norman, 2023

Beetlejuice the musical is based on the film, and the authors of the show (with music and lyrics by Eddie Perfect -King Kong the musical – and book by Scott Brown & Anthony King -Guttenberg, the musical) are counting on the status of the cult classic to cater to the audience. Those wanting to see an exact replica of the film on stage will, thankfully, find that many changes have occurred. The storyline has been adapted and that works on stage. The film’s crowd-pleasing characters reappear in the ‘afterlife’ (“Juno”, “Miss Argentina” and the “shrunken head guy”) but they are there for the film reference more than contribution to the show. The famous “Banana Boat” scene that pretty much made the movie a hit, is dulled down for a less fantastical representation; twice, although still evokes laughter. The musical is fun and perfect to turn off your brain and escape in live performance. There were a few times where a scene or visual joke went on too long, but then something would be said and the audience would collectively laugh out loud again. Neither the music nor the lyrics stand out very much, and aside from the manic opening number “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing”, or Lydia’s breakout song “Dead Mom”, there really isn’t much else that stands out. There are many one-line zingers that fly by, quick social commentaries, and asides addressed to the audience that had them (myself included) laughing several times out loud; sometimes, I was alone in this. The musical will not outlive the original film production. It is enjoyable and good for several hearty out-loud laughs. Much like the musical “Spamalot” (based on the Monty Python & The Holy Grail), the audience is very familiar with what is about to happen, and that helps to socially lubricate their expectations with uninvited called out commentaries or exuberant cheers or “Woos” from the audience. It only exemplified that the film’s cult status is what is driving the popularity of this production.

Beetlejuice the Musical opened on Broadway April 25, 2019. It ran for just over 350 performances before it closed two weeks later due to the Covid 19 Pandemic. The musical was nominated for eight Tony Awards (2019 Season) including Best Book of a Musical and Best Actor in a Leading Role of a Musical (Alex Brightman). The musical is based on the [now] cult classic 1988 film featuring Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Geena Davis with Michael Keaton in the title role.

Beetlejuice, the Musical
Paramount Theatre
Through April 07, 2024 get tickets and more info here.

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Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at: http://www.EricAndrewsKatz.com

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