By Raizy Neuman, Staff Writer
You may have seen the movie, or maybe you’ve seen ads for the musical on social media. You may have even tried giving the cast recording a listen, and quickly turned it off at the sound of Beetlejuice’s voice (one of the key features of the musical is Alex Brightman’s demon-voice trick). But give it another shot – Beetlejuice, though certainly not the most conventional, is one of the most entertaining, funny, and exciting Broadway shows out there.
“Say my name three times, it must be spoken, unbroken!” begs Beetlejuice, a dead demon who yearns to live again. Nobody can see him, but if a living person says his name three times, he’ll be brought back to life, free to wreak havoc on those around him. Beetlejuice: The Musical, based on the 1988 Tim Burton film of the same name, is the story that connects Beetlejuice’s longing to be alive with Lydia Deetz, a grieving teenage girl who has just lost her mother. Along the way, we meet Lydia’s struggling father Charles, along with Delia, a somewhat clueless life coach Lydia’s father hires to “fix” her, and Adam and Barbara Maitland, a young and enthusiastic (recently-deceased) couple.
Beetlejuice’s score, written by Eddie Perfect, is clever and fun, with a sprinkle of emotion. It features songs that movie fans will remember, like “Day-O” and “Jump in the Line” (originally by Harry Belafonte), as well as songs written specially for the musical. These new songs are great, but I definitely recommend brushing up on the plot before giving the cast album a listen; as is the case with many musicals, songs can be extremely confusing without context.
Today, Beetlejuice is one of the most popular shows out there, though it didn’t start off that way. On April 25th, 2019, Beetlejuice opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. It received such poor ratings from critics that there was reason to be concerned that the show would face an early closing -– the New York Post called it “one of the worst Broadway musicals in years,” and the Times called it “exhausting.” On June 9th, it came away with a total of zero Tony Awards. Somehow, though, Beetlejuice has developed into the latest cult-like Broadway show (especially among teenagers), similar to shows like Be More Chill and Six.
Mark Kaufman, one of the executive producers of Beetlejuice, claims that “we benefited from good old-fashioned word-of-mouth.” The show has over 200 thousand followers on Instagram, and a popular TikTok account. One of the most unique aspects of the Beetlejuice experience is that it’s almost convention-like: with some audience members coming in costume, cosplaying their favorite characters. It’s one of the most popular Broadway shows currently playing, often with sold-out performances.
Even with all of its recent successes (including breaking the Winter Garden theatre’s box office record several times over), Beetlejuice is faced with a new problem. The show is being “evicted,” due to another show, The Music Man, moving into the Winter Garden Theatre this summer. “#SaveBeetlejuice” began trending almost immediately following the announcement; fans are outraged. The producers are working on finding a new theater for Beetlejuice, but we may be forced to say an early goodbye. Most Broadway theaters are currently occupied by other shows, and those that are open are too small to fully contain a show as big, bright and loud as Beetlejuice. It can’t hurt to keep hoping that a theater may open up for Beetlejuice to move in to, but options seem slim.
The show is definitely worth seeing before it closes. I’d recommend running to catch it while you still can. Alex Brightman, who plays Beetlejuice, is one of the most energetic actors I’ve ever seen. He seems to fly across the stage, bouncing around as a simultaneously ingenious and idiotic quick-tempered demon. As Lydia, Presley Ryan (to whom much of Beetlejuice’s popularity is owed, due to her TikTok account) is a crowd favorite, garnering an empathetic and invested audience. Leslie Kritzer is a hilarious Delia, and Kerry Butler and David Josefberg are lovable as quirky Barbara and Adam.
Overall, if you enjoy a show filled with laughter, great music, and breaking of the fourth wall, Beetlejuice is for you. Of course, with the news of Broadway “going dark” for a while due to COVID-19, Beetlejuice may suffer tremendously, as the lack of revenue can be damaging. This may garner less and less hope for a new theater, and who knows when Beetlejuice’s next show will be — but the cast album can be a great activity during social distancing!