‘Beetlejuice: The Musical’ Playing at The Fox Theater Through October 22nd
It is with increasing regularity that movies/films are being adapted into stage plays. Some are masterpieces like The Lion King, The Producers, and Spamalot. Others come along – I won’t name and shame – and they drop the ball completely. It might be because they simply rehash the source material and add a few jaunty numbers on top of an already insufferable runtime. Beetlejuice is much more in the vein of something like Spamalot that takes the premise of the film and its spirit (no pun intended) and brings it to entirely new medium in a way that pays off in a highly entertaining evening.
First thing you should know, if you are expected the exact plot and plot beats of the film you’ll be disappointed. The film and the show fork into different directions almost immediately, and as such change the drive of some of its main characters. While some story bits remain, the show plays more as an alternate reality of Beetlejuice.
That all being said, the story is probably one of the most pedestrian things about the show. What drives the show is Justin Collette’s performance as titular character. He is brash with a stand-up comics delivery, and vocals not to dissimilar from what’d you hear in a Fat Wreck Chords pop punk album straight out of the early 2000s. The character is the driving force behind the show, and Collette’s performance is nothing short of bombastic. When playing an iconic character like Beetlejuice, one might wonder how you step outside of the shadow of Michael Keaton’s portrayal? Collette keeps a bit of the gravelly voice, but ultimately makes the character his own. Unnecessary and necessary fourth wall breaks only endear you to the character further, and had the performance not been half as lively the show itself would not have worked.
The other clear standout in the show is Isabella Esler making her debut as Lydia. She doesn’t have to eat up the scenery in a way that some of the other characters do, but if Beetlejuice is its driving force, she is its heart. Esler’s vocals are some of the best I’ve heard on stage in recent years. She is center of many of the best songs of the show, and will delight many musical theater fans who may not been expecting such a performance.
Kate Marilley takes cues from Catherine O’Hara from more than just Beetelejuice, and throws in a bit of Moira on top. She gets the most laughs of anyone in the cast aside from Beetlejuice, and gets a nice shiny number to show off her vocal range as well. Marilley elevates a grating character and turns her into something endearing by the end of the show.
Megan McGinnis and Ryan Breslin are tasked with carrying the roles of Adam and Barbara. The musical takes them from the every day ordinary couple of the films, to the worst tropes you might see about a millennial white couple. It’s one of the few departures that didn’t quite work for me in the show. McGinnis and Breslin are both great in their respective roles, but out of the main characters they felt the most underdeveloped by the end of the show.
The show does a great job of not just recycling the jokes used in the movie, and instead crafts new timely jokes about our current political climate. It overall still resides on the performance of its title character, just as the film itself did.
This is a musical that just about anyone can enjoy. It’d be very hard to leave feeling like you didn’t get your money’s worth. There might be more laughs than in shows like Book of Mormon or Spamalot. This might be the funniest show I’ve seen since Avenue Q. It skews on the adult side of things, so leave the little ones at home.