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Now Opening: ‘Beetlejuice’ Has Been Summoned to Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Ron Fassler |

The new musical is now haunting the Winter Garden Theatre

Presenting the last show of the 2018-19 Broadway season: a musical adaptation of the 1988 Tim Burton wacky film comedy Beetlejuice. And if the thought of remaking famous movie titles from thirty plus years ago seems familiar by now, that could be due to the first musical of the season being a stage version of 1990’s Pretty Woman, with those famous Richard Gere and Julia Roberts characters now singing about their love, and the-second-to-last musical to arrive bringing us a singing and dancing Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie, based on the 1982 classic film comedy. Is this just the eighties being good to us, or – in the case of Beetlejuice – coming back to haunt us? As always, the final judge is the audience. But what with Pretty Woman still alive and kicking since its August 2018 opening, and Tootsie having just opened to enthusiastic reviews that should ensure its stay for many months ahead, Beetlejuice must prove it can rise from the dead each night in order to scare another day.

Alex Brightman stars as the titular demon in ‘Beetlejuice’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Alex Brightman stars as the titular demon in ‘Beetlejuice’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

The creative team behind Beetlejuice are no strangers to finding ways to musicalize offbeat material for the theater. Its composer, Eddie Perfect, wrote the score for this season’s King Kong (where even if the ape doesn’t sing, everyone around him does), and director Alex Timbers, who heretofore helmed a musical which had our 7th President singing rock and roll: 2010’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. The book for Beetlejuice has been adapted by Scott Brown and Emmy Award nominee Anthony King (Broad City), its choreography is by Connor Gallagher (The Robber Bridegroom) and music supervision, orchestrations and incidental music are by Kris Kukul (Joan of Arc: Into the Fire).

For those who may never have heard of the film and its title character, Beetlejuice is a degenerate demon who comes to the aid of Lydia Deetz, a darkly strange teenager obsessed with the whole “being dead thing,” who upon discovering her new house is haunted by a recently deceased couple, pledges to help them scare away her insufferable parents in order so they may get their home back. Enter Beetlejuice, offering his services to the couple with a plan, or rather plans – each one more disgusting than the next, “guaranteed” to scare the intended targets out of their wits. As they say: mayhem ensues.

In the movie, it was a glorious Michael Keaton who created Beetlejuice. Now it is Alex Brightman, to whom the assignment it is to return to what coincidentally is his former home (the Winter Garden, where he starred for a year as Dewey Finn in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock) and see what mischief he can scare up. In the roles of the young dead couple, previously portrayed by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, are Rob McClure (Chaplin) and Kerry Butler (Mean Girls). Leslie Kritzer (Sondheim on Sondheim) plays Delia, and Sophia Anne Caruso, as Lydia, follows in the footsteps of a teenaged Winona Ryder from the film.

But it’s going to take more than great music, funny lines and terrific actors to make Beetlejuice sing, which is where its design team have their work cut out for them. This is where the producers have lined up a winning team to create a special look for their show. Its set design is by David Korins, who has earned back-to-back Tony Award nominations for Hamilton and War Paint. Costumer William Ivey Long, who is coming off his brilliant work on Tootsie, marks Beetlejuice as his 75th Broadway show (not to mention his six Tony Awards). Further credits include puppet design by Michael Curry (The Lion King), special effects design by Jeremy Chernick (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and Michael Webber, who with significant special effects expertise in film (Forrest Gump), is being credited with something called “illusions.”

Regardless of what the critics might have to say, one thing is for sure: with Beetlejuice, this Broadway season will go out with a bang, and not a whimper.

Beetlejuice is now playing at the Winter Garden Theatre, located at 1634 Broadway.

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

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