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Broadway Q&A: Eddie Perfect of ‘Beetlejuice’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

The Tony-nominated composer on the dark comedy of ‘Beetlejuice’

A Tony nominee, Eddie Perfect wrote the music and lyrics for Beetlejuice on Broadway. The show is based on Tim Burton’s 1988 classic comedy-horror film. Lydia Deetz is a 17-year-old outsider who desperately misses her late mother. When Lydia, her father and his life coach girlfriend move to a new home, Lydia discovers they are not alone. Newly deceased Barbara and Adam Maitland still reside there. Enter Beetlejuice to help (or, perhaps, make things infinitely worse instead). Directed by Alex Timbers, Beetlejuice is playing at the Winter Garden Theatre. The musical stars Alex Brightman as Beetlejuice, Sophia Anne Caruso as Lydia, Kerry Butler as Barbara, David Josefsberg as Adam, Leslie Kritzer as Delia and Adam Dannheisser as Charles. In addition to composing songs, Perfect, a native Australian, is also a playwright, musician and performer. His works for the stage include Shane Warne The MusicalVivid White and The BeastStrictly BallroomSongs From The Middle and King Kong.

Eddie Perfect wrote the music and lyrics for ‘Beetlejuice’ on Broadway (Photos: Julian Kingma; Matthew Murphy)

Eddie Perfect wrote the music and lyrics for ‘Beetlejuice’ on Broadway (Photos: Julian Kingma; Matthew Murphy)

When did you know that Beetlejuice had to be a musical?
Eddie Perfect: I was the last creative on the project. It had already been decided before I came along. But I wasn't sure how it would be a musical. All I knew was that there were some really exciting people involved in making it. I had been coming to New York for about two years, just knocking on doors and taking meetings. I had seen Here Lies Love and Rocky (directed by Alex Timbers). And I love Alex's work. When I heard that he was developing Beetlejuice and they didn't have a writer, I thought, what can I do to pitch on it?

By the time I came along there was a script. That script is almost entirely different. But I was really curious to know how it would be a musical. As soon as I read it, I thought, “That's so smart to take Lydia Deetz, the Winona Ryder character in the movie, and make her emotional story front and center.” Beetlejuice is really about a little girl who has lost her mum and is obsessed with the afterlife, the macabre and death. And she meets a demon who is obsessed with life. It's a very interesting dynamic.

What is your process?
EP: Sit in a room and drive myself crazy, really. I sit there with a piano and play stuff. I listen to a whole bunch of music. In the script, Beetlejuice is so surprising. He will turn on a dime from being seductive to being angry. And then he will be a real cheerleader, or be sad. He's the most mood-swinging guy in the world. I wanted the music to match that. So the songs are actually basically split personality. Every little voice inside him has different genre and he switches between all of them within the same song. Sometimes within the same bar in the measure of the song.

When did you know you had to be an artist?
EP: In high school I wanted to be a visual artist. That was my primary love. I worked towards the goal of studying visual arts at university in Australia. I did that for a year. But I didn't really have anything to say. I just loved making images. Then I went away and studied musical theater as a performer. From there, I discovered writing music for the stage. I had classmates to try stuff out on. And as soon as I started that, I was like, “Oh, this is it. I've got it. It's a combination of words and music. That’s what I want to be about.” Art that sits on a wall was too passive for me. I didn't know how to get it to communicate to people in the way I wanted until I discovered songwriting.

And you still perform.
EP: I tour as a comedian, doing musical comedy. It has been really good for this project, because you get a good sense of what makes an audience laugh, and how to do it with music.

Do you remember the first Broadway show you saw?
EP: The very first Broadway show I ever saw was Catch Me If You Can with Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit. I loved it. At the end of the show, they opened up the side doors in the theater, and people exited by the side of the theater. That doesn't happen in Australia. You go out the way you come in. I thought, “Oh my God, this is amazing.” It blew my mind.

Why do you think people should see Beetlejuice?
EP: It is funny in a way that comedy is funny. It's a dark show. That's for sure. It’s black comedy. It has a great, strong emotional center, which is that we're all gonna die. We're here for very short amount of time. We need to stop wasting it isolating ourselves. People need to connect to each other, and we need to talk to each other. And we need to enjoy the time that we're here. And maybe that will lead to good?

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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