Certain pop culture characters are instantly recognizable. Even if a story might delve into the darkness, a good laugh and a rhythmic beat can make that unlikely subject feel even slightly lighthearted. While Beetlejuice the Musical might be a story about death, the bigger meaning is simmering just under the surface waiting to be visible.
Over the past several years, popular movies have been brought to the stage. From Pretty Woman to Tootsie, those musicals have transformed well-known stories in a new way. Even though there is a sense of a familiar, the new telling reinvigorates why people are connected to that tale.
Beetlejuice the Musical, the Broadway production now on a national tour takes moments and scenes that have become part of the pop culture collective and gives them a new perspective. Although the Beetlejuice character has always known how to deliver a cutting phrase, this version has the audience going from laughing to introspective to shocked all in the same scene.
Although the musical’s namesake commands the stage, it is Lydia who is the heart of the show. While her wardrobe might be muted, her emotions, as seen in the powerful belting numbers from Isabella Esler, demand attention. As she sings about longing to be seen, it is a reminder that living in the moment is never simple. One path might seem easy, but the choice might not lead to a fulfilling end.
While she can belt showstopping numbers, it is the moments where she shows a little introspection and even a touch of humor that endears the performance to the audience. She might not be that girl next store, but she is relatable.
Of course, the audience cheers for Beetlejuice, played by Justin Collette. Seamlessly moving from moments where the audience despises his evil ways to pauses where his consciousness takes over, his sense of comedic timing is impeccable. Whether the lines are scripted or a moment of improv, he is the character that the audience loves but feels a little dirty for those emotions.
Although those redeeming qualities might be hard to unbury, Beetlejuice makes people think. Just like Lydia longs to be visible, so does he. Even if a few audience members might be pulled into the joke, those moments are just as important as the showstoppers that get rousing applause.
While Beetlejuice is never really that warm, fuzzy character, this musical portrayal leans into more adult humor. Although some people might never look at guacamole the same again, the laughter helps make some of the darker subjects more palatable. Given that Beetlejuice the Musical is a story about death, there needs to be some light mixed into the darkness.
One of the reasons why this musical endears itself to a wide audience is the concepts are ones that people understand. Many people have dealt with a death of a loved one, have had regrets about an unfulfilled life, or do not get along with a parent. While that nod to the familiar is apparent, the humor balanced with the heart makes this portrayal engaging.
Fans of that classic movie, its characters, and iconic scenes will get their fill. Without giving away all the secrets, there are plenty of moments when everyone is cheering and dancing to that familiar beat. And, those who never watched that classic tale can follow along with ease, too.
It is time to jump to the front of the line and get a ticket to see Beetlejuice the Musical. After playing Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando, it plays several dates in California. You might not have to say his name three times, but you will want to enjoy this raucous interpretation of the classic tale.