My friend and I have this newly formed tradition where we take each other out to a musical or show for our birthdays. Last year, we saw one of my favorites, Hairspray, but this year, we were able to check off one from our most anticipated list, Beetlejuice the Musical.
Beetlejuice the Musical is based on the 1988 film of the same name, however the musical features many dynamic changes from the original film. It was adapted for the stage by Scott Brown and Anthony King for the story and Eddie Perfect for the music and lyrics. With a humble beginning in Washington D.C. before making it to Broadway and now a national tour, this story is about death, love, and finding your place in a big scary world. So is this the show for you? Read on to see what I thought.
[Warning: Spoilers from Beetlejuice the Musical are below!]
Act I: setting a new stage in Beetlejuice the Musical
One of the biggest differences in the musical compared to the film counterpart is the back story and emotional journey of Lydia Deetz (Isabella Esler). The musical begins with the funeral of Emily Deetz, the mother of Lydia. Lydia struggles with grief and laments about being invisible to her father, in the song Prologue: Invisible. It’s clear that her mother was something special, with Lydia feeling like she was the only one that saw or understood her daughter.
Not one to be outshined in a show with his name plastered on the Marquee, Beetlejuice (Justin Collette) appears to make light of such a dark subject, death. He’s bored with the life he has been living up to this point as a demon. Beetlejuice is invisible to all humans unless he can convince someone to say his name three times, which will break him from his demonic trap in the afterlife.
Cut to Adam (Will Burton) and Barbara Maitland (Britney Coleman), who are living peacefully in their very old and hazardous home. The married couple seems happy on the surface, however, are suppressing their feelings of wanting to start a family. Neither feels like they are ready nor communicate their desires to each other. Instead, they both throw their attention into hobbies, the focus on their suppressed wishes.
Barbara is excellent with her pottery, however, Adam’s inventions are dangerous at best, so it wasn’t a total shock that his questionable electrical work causes a shortage in the old home. This results in their death, an event that Beetlejuice takes advantage of.
Usually, when someone dies, they receive a personal copy of the Handbook for the Recently Deceased which guides them into the afterlife. Beetlejuice burns their copy and uses the Maitland’s naivety about being dead to help him achieve his goal. He informs the couple that their home is about to be inhabited by Lydia and her father and if the couple wants to keep their house, they’ll have to scare the new family away.
Lydia settles into a new life
Lydia’s father Charles (Jesse Sharp) bought this new house, hoping to start a new gated community, with the Maitland’s old house serving as the prototype. Joining Lydia and Charles in this move to the new house is life coach Delia (Kate Marilley). She’s hired to help Lydia move through her grief, however, has developed a relationship with Charles instead. Lydia is stuck in her grief, struggling to get past the loss of her mother. She also hates the new house and desperately wants to go back to the house she shared with her mother.
Stumbling upon Barbara and Adam in the attic, Lydia decides to team up with the two recently deceased. The goal is to get her old life back, while Barbara and Adam get their house back for themselves. The initial plan to convince Charles and Delia that the house is haunted backfires, with neither believing her. Lydia also finds out that her father proposed to Delia, pushing the young girl to want to take her own life.
Ready to throw herself off the roof, Lydia crosses paths with a depressed Beetlejuice, who convinces the girl to not kill herself. He instead lays the groundwork to show Lydia how everyone can get what they want. Initially, she rejects him, but when her father sees the ghost as a selling point for his new builds, Lydia becomes desperate. She says Beetlejuice three times, bringing him to the land of the living, causing havoc, and running Charles and Delia from the house.
Act II- A trip to find a loved one
When the show returns for act II Lydia and Beetlejuice are cohabiting in the house that Lydia wanted out of. It appears the two are having fun, but more importantly, they have found another individual who finally sees them. Wanting Lydia to embrace the way of the dead a bit more, Beetlejuice gifts her a copy of the Handbook of the Recently Deceased. While she can’t open it because she’s still living, Lydia gets the idea that if she can open it, she can bring her mother back.
Lydia rushes to Barbara and Adam to open it, with the latter two discovering that they never received this book nor did they go to the Netherworld like they were supposed to. Being fearful of leaving the house, Barbara won’t help Lydia summon her mother, which brings the child back to Beetlejuice. The demon instructs her to read from a page in the book, but instead of resurrecting her mother, she begins exorcising Barbara. Lydia realizes too late what she did, turning to Beetlejuice once again for help. He agrees, but only if Lydia marries him.
In the chaos, Beetlejuice opens a door to the Netherworld to get rid of Adam and Barbara once and for all, but when he does, Lydia escapes through the door. However, she’s not alone, as her father chases after her, hoping to save his daughter.
The Netherworld appears as a large void, inhabited by all forms of dead individuals. It’s scary and is no place for the living, but Lydia needs to find her mother separately. Instead, she finds her father and a place in the living world she didn’t think she has. In a touching scene between father and daughter, everything is right in the world, that is if the two can escape the Netherworld and rid their house of Beetlejuice once and for all.
The good and the bad of Beetlejuice the Musical
I just want to start off by saying that I loved this show so much, more than I thought I was going to. I went into the show blind, not knowing anything about the music or the story, other than having seen the film when I was younger.
I was blown away by the performances of these very talented actors, every second of this show is filled to the brim with exceptional acting and singing. Justin Collete was one of the shining stars of Beetlejuice the Musical for me, he stole every scene he was in without fail. His delivery of lines was perfect, embodying the hilarious tones of the source material.
Isabella Esler was also fantastic, portraying a broken but resilient Lydia, who is just looking for her place in the big scary world. It was smart of those who built this show to include the storyline about Lydia losing her mother because it added a better understanding of this girl and her motives for working with a demon. Of course, she would want to bring back her mother if she could, who wouldn’t? Esler’s voice range was impressive, bringing me to tears a few times.
Britney Coleman and Will Burton were great as Barbara and Adam, who both received deeper emotional arcs for the musical than what I remember from the film. Both were so lovable, you wanted to hug them and be their friends. The two characters become surrogate parents for Lydia, and I loved that they still had a place in her family in the end.
The only “bad” thing that came to mind after seeing this show is that while you may allow younger children to watch Beetlejuice, the musical is not family-friendly. Both my friend and I left the show with the same thought – this show is horny. The show has a lot of political and social commentary, but it also has a lot of jokes about sex. I personally found it hilarious, but I also wouldn’t take my nephews to go see it. I may not even see it with my mother. There are parts that are a little spooky, with one moment making me visibly jump in my seat.
However, if that is the only negative thing I can say about Beetlejuice the Musical, then the show itself must be amazing. I laughed so much I was crying and crying so hard at other times that I couldn’t see out of my glasses. Beetlejuice the Musical is a triumph in almost every way and I encourage every single individual who loves musicals or is a fan of the film, to see this. You will have so much fun and memories to last a lifetime.
Beetlejuice the Musical is currently touring North America. Are you interested in seeing it? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of Wicked, another fantastic musical currently on Broadways and touring.