Wednesday, May 15, 2024
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Beetlejuice The Musical: You’ll Die Laughing

Justin Collette (Beetlejuice) and Tour Company of Beetlejuice
Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022

–by Sean Derrick

Growing up as a teen in the 1980’s I was deep into movies of that decade, always looking for that one standout film. Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice was one of those movies. When I saw it as a senior in 1988 I was instantly transfixed and I have loved that movie ever since, seeing it over 100 times. When I first heard about Beetlejuice The Musical I was anxious. Anxious to see what Broadway would do to one of my favorite movies. On Tuesday I got the chance to watch the opening night at The Fabulous Fox Theatre in Saint Louis to see for myself which side of the grave this landed.

I was honestly prepared to be let down for in my mind no one could replace Michael Keaton’s amazing, albeit short, performance. But I was dead wrong, and I resigned myself going in that this was not Keaton’s Beetlejuice which set me free to enjoy what truly is one of the most fun musicals I have seen in a long time.

Danielle Marie Gonzalez (Miss Argentina) and Tour Company of Beetlejuice
Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022

The stories between the film and the musical vary greatly in many ways yet retain the familiarity of the movie in others. For example, here the main story focuses on Lydia Deetz (Isabella Esler) whose mother has just died. Feeling all alone she, along with her father, Charles Deetz (Jesse Sharp), and his life coach/lover (as opposed to his wife) Delia (Kate Marilley) move into the home of a couple who just died, the Maitland’s.¬† For the Musical the Maitland’s find their demise in a shocking way, as opposed to the movie’s drowning cause of death.

Lydia discovers the Maitland’s (Adam played by Ryan Breslin, and Barbara played by Megan McGinnis) just like the movie. But she longs for her mother and asks if Adam and Barbara can find her. The quirky couple play a supporting role in the musical, which differs from their spotlight in the film.

Isabella Esler (Lydia)
Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022

“Betelgeuse” (Pronounced “Beetlejuice” and played by Justin Collette) is an unscrupulous character who has no filter and is quick with the hilariously crude jokes, and who longs to be back among the living in corporeal form because he is lonely. But because he has been away from the living world so long he cannot process the intense feelings of happiness, sadness, loneliness, and anger that flood in like tidal waves. He attempts to cope by flipping off the audience and cast while snorting a copious amount of coke, inevitably to help guide his fast-paced jokes and hyperactivity throughout the performance.

Pictured (L-R): Britney Coleman (Barbara), Will Burton (Adam), Isabella Esler (Lydia) and Justin Collette
Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022

He begins as the narrator and is constantly breaking down the 4th wall (including a hilarious clapback at someone in the audience who yelled something during the performance.) Here, as opposed to the movie, Betelgeuse can only be summoned by the living, and the “Handbook for the Recently Deceased” can only be opened by the dead.

Betelgeuse’s quick banter and hilariously crude comebacks endear quickly with the audience. From the unapologetic vulgarity to the snarky clap backs and quick-witted jokes about the current state of politics the show has gained a cult-like following among Gen Z, which is great considering the aging population of theatergoers. This is just the shot in the arm the theater needs to regain footing and sustain viability. Unfortunately, that understanding is lost on some uppety reviewers who think this production is too vulgar and “Gross” (as the Chicago Tribune claimed).

Betelgeuse welcomes and reiterates to the audience “Welcome to a show about death” from the beginning, so there is no misunderstanding. The macabre abounds in sight gags and jokes that seem so wrong on so many levels, but feel so right for so many reasons in this show. Throughout the show Betelgeuse connives and schemes his way to get what he wants, a green card to life. This drives Lydia’s desire to attempt to bring her mother back from the Netherworld, and it all results in a perspective change that bring together the naughty and vulgar wisecracks to a delightful ending.

Pictured (L-R): Karmine Alers (Juno), Tour Company of Beetlejuice, Jesse Sharp (Charles) and Isabella
Esler (Lydia)
Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022

If you are a fan of the movie you will love this show as long as you don’t set out to compare the two. Think of it as a retelling from a different point of view. Obviously, there are some differences, but there are some similarities as well. (Yes, the Harry Belafonte classics “Day-O (The banana Boat Song)” and “Jump In the Line” are present, much to the appreciation of the audience.) The eye-popping visuals and outrageous interactions mixed with clever musical numbers that touch on several genres and references the original movie (“The Whole “Being Dead” Thing”) to new scenes (“Girl Scout”) and familiar characters (Juno/the football team/Harry the Hunter aka shrunken head guy) Beetlejuice The Musical kills it.

The show runs until October 22 at The Fabulous Fox Theatre in Saint Louis. This is absolutely a show to see and missing it could be fatal.

Tickets can be purchased online HERE or at the Fabulous Fox Box Office.


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