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Broadway Q&A: Adam Dannheisser of ‘Beetlejuice: The Musical’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Dannheisser on playing Charles and his “come to Beetlejuice” moment

Beetlejuice: The Musical is a joyful, hilarious and truly other worldly musical based on Tim Burton’s beloved classic film. Adam Dannheisser plays wacky dad Charles Deetz. Newly widowed, Charles, his daughter Lydia and Delia, the life coach Charles has hired for Lydia, have just moved into a new home. However, Lydia discovers they are not alone. It turns out that they are sharing the place with a recently deceased couple (the Maitlands) and a demon with a passion for stripes and an obsession with life. When Lydia tries to enlist Beetlejuice for help, the fun really begins. A Broadway veteran, Dannheisser’s credits include Oslo, Fiddler on the Roof, Rock of Ages, Cymbeline, The Coast of Utopia, Twelfth Night, ProofThe Tempest and Contact. On television, he has been in Elementary, Law & Order: SVU, The Good Wife, Damages, Brotherhood, Third Watch, Sex and the City and Mad About You

Leslie Kritzer (Delia) and Adam Dannheisser (Charles) in ‘Beetlejuice’ on Broadway (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Leslie Kritzer (Delia) and Adam Dannheisser (Charles) in ‘Beetlejuice’ on Broadway (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Can you take us back to when you first heard about Beetlejuice: The Musical?
Adam Dannheisser: We started workshopping the show around two or three years ago. The creatives were working on it, for years, long before that. When I heard about the show, I was doing Fiddler on the Roof. They asked me to be in a workshop of it. You do a lot of workshops and never hear anything again. But this was so fun and so funny, I thought, “I really hope to be a part of Beetlejuice.” It was very biting, sharp and smart. It's so otherworldly. It's grounded in reality, but then there's this larger-than-life landscape. And all my cast mates are such titans of comedy and song. A month or two went by, and I did another workshop. And then I did Oslo, which is totally different than this.

Why do you love playing Charles Deetz?
AD: I love the journey of my character. Without giving too much away, I start off in a very officious place. Then I get to sort of have my “come to Beetlejuice” moment. I like the journey of this character. It is always fun to play a character who gets to evolve and learn something. And this guy really has a transformation.

Do you remember one of the first times you were on stage.
I played a made-up part in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at my summer camp. They made up a part for me called "the Bagel Man." My lines were "Bagels, bagels. Hot delicious bagels."

Can you talk about your Broadway debut?
AD: My Broadway debut was in 1995. I did The Tempest with Patrick Stewart, Liev Schreiber and other great people. The day I graduated from NYU grad school, I got a call that I had the part. They were doing it as part of Shakespeare In The Park. I was with my father and my now-wife, who was my then-girlfriend. We were all crying, and I said something like, “I’m going to go make $300 in the park. I am set for life. I am on my way.” That production was really successful, and we ended up bringing it to Broadway.

What was one of the first Broadway shows you saw?
AD: I remember seeing Big River when I was in high school, and I was blown away by the power of it all. It's funny, because I did Oslo with Daniel Jenkins, who played Huckleberry Finn in Big River. I said to him “When I saw you when I was 14, you inspired me to be an actor.” And here I was in Oslo with him.

How connected are you to the movie Beetlejuice?
I saw it about a hundred times when I was in high school, and wanted to be everyone in it. I haven't seen it in years, but I love that I just have the memory of these characters. I just absolutely loved that film. I think I can quote every line of it. The score is funny as hell, and is witty and catchy. It has very moving, beautiful songs in it.

For more of the best of Broadway this season, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in October 2019.

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