It’s SHOWTIME for Beetlejuice: The Musical
Written by: The Bat
Every person who considers themself a goth, as I do, has at least heard of Beetlejuice. The heroine, Lydia, considers herself strange and unusual and is obsessed with death: a perfect goth icon. So it is no surprise that I have seen the movie at least half a dozen times and grew up watching the cartoon. Heck, I even saw the short live show when it was at Universal Studios in the 90’s.
So when I saw there was a Broadway version, Beetlejuice The Musical, and it was coming to the theater in my city, I told the Dragon that we HAD TO GO!!! Yes, My Readers, she could hear the exclamation points in my voice and of course, it was a date. I bought a black and white striped dress and put a skeleton hand and spiders in my hair, and away we went. We were off to be strange and unusual!
One of the best parts was apparent before the show even started. We were surrounded by fellow fans! A few people were dressed in their best Beetlejuice merch. Others had carefully coordinated outfits with a nod to the film like myself. I saw the Lydia wedding dress, purses that looked like the Handbook and so many black and white stripes. It was awesome.
The show itself did not disappoint in the slightest. It opened with a funeral, definitely a departure from the original but still awesome. It held to the original premises, with the dead couple in the house, Lydia and her father and weird detached future stepmom, and of course, the titular stripe-clad demon. And don’t worry, it has enough of the fun side characters and scenes from the film to make any fan happy. The sandworm makes a dramatically big and loud appearance. Miss Argentina brings her glitter, and of course, there is a possessed dance to the Banana Song. But there are also enough unique elements to the story that it stands out on its own; it is not just the movie with songs stuck in.
That is the most I can give you of the plot without spoilers, My Readers, and you know I won’t do that in case the show ever comes to your town. So on to the review!
The first thing that amazed me about this production was the set and the background. The outside scenes were not painted to look realistic. Instead, they were a beautiful artistic rendering of a moonlit night with flowing trees and a spiral inside the moon. I would theorize that they are a nod to Tim Burton’s work in Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. And it moved and changed with every scene change. It was like getting to see a work of art at every scene break.
The set itself did not disappoint either. The house was a character unto itself with its vintage yet homey feel. And what Beetlejuice story would be complete without a visit to the Netherlands? That set was simple and dramatic all at once. They managed to make it look endless and lonely and dark, but if you break it down, it was made entirely of giant squares suspended in darkness. The effects did not disappoint either. Beetlejuice managed a few bits of magic with other demons or even images of himself popping out of nowhere. Of course, the Sandworm had to make an appearance. It was huge, it was loud, it was dramatic, it was every bit what I hoped to see.
But the visuals were definitely not the only good part of the show. The songs were wonderfully catchy. After the show, I wanted to listen to them again and again. I was thrilled to find out that the songs are available to listen to on Spotify, and they were the center of my playlist for….well they still are!
The acting was amazing too. Isabella Esler, the actress who played Lydia, made her professional debut with this show. I would not have known that if it hadn’t been in the program; she was so at home on the stage. Her singing voice was phenomenal, as was her acting. On top of all that, she managed to give nods to Winona Ryder’s character without actually imitating her, a difficult task in my opinion. Beetlejuice was hilarious. The actor, Justin Collette, has improv experience from performances at comedy festivals and he used it! His bit was filled with lines that seemed like stand-up comedy, with tons of fourth wall breaks. The comedy was mostly scripted, I found out when I listened to the soundtrack, but he made it seem as if it was made up on the spot, just for us.
The plot of the musical was fantastic. After introducing itself as a show about death, you would think it would be depressing, but it definitely proved that idea wrong. Instead, it managed to bounce back and forth from hilarious to heartwrenching without losing the flow of the story. We laughed and cried, yes literally cried. When the curtain went up, it felt like I had just ridden an emotional rollercoaster and was pulling back into the station with a beautiful feeling of hope.
Usually, I can make myself find something to put in this category. I want this blog to be fair, not to be a sappy gush fest about how great everything is. However, in this case, finding something bad is a big stretch. Prudish people might not like how far some of the jokes go. There is an entire song about creepy old men that seems in bad taste if taken out of context. But I thought those lent to the reality of Beetlejuice’s personality. He may look like a clown, but he is a Demon!! They are supposed to be crude!
Some of the lighting effects could be dangerous if you have seizure disorders. There were lots of flashing lights and a few times they shone the light right into the audience for a blinding type effect.
Yes, My Readers, I know those are grasping at straws. I loved this show so much I can’t think of anything bad to say!
If I want to leave you with any lasting impressions of the Beetlejuice Musical, they would be this. The show was an amazing spectacle, with beautiful scenery and effects. They manage to put in Beetlejuice’s random bits of magic, from him ripping his own arm off to multiplying himself and more. It goes from campy to hilarious to emotionally beautiful and back, over and over again. Fun songs, amazing acting, a well written script, and exciting effects. It had everything I wanted in a musical and more!! If it comes to your town, I highly recommend this show!