REVIEW: ‘Beetlejuice: The Musical’ will be the fright of your life

By Catherine Khitiri, Apprentice Editor

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This year, Broadway has been gaining and losing shows to welcome in the new decade. Whether it was announcing the closing of the hit show “Waitress” or welcoming more obscure shows such as “Betrayal” starring Tom Hiddleston, Broadway has been undergoing the start of their new generation.  The newest hit musical, “Beetlejuice,” based on the 1988 Tim Burton film, is no exception. It has taken the theatre world by storm, practically breaking box office records overnight. 

The show ran previews in Washington D.C. in October 2018 before officially opening on Broadway on April 25, 2019. It had a relatively hesitant opening, as it was roasted to a crisp by the Washington Post on its review of the Washington D.C. version on Nov. 4, 2018. It was called “overcaffeinated, overstuffed and virtually charmlessfor using too much crude humor, straying from the original source material, and breaking the fourth wall multiple times. Luckily, from April to June, the show gained a rather steady audience, with virtually not much hate from outside sources. On the opening date, The New York Times called it “jaw droppingly” fun, especially praising the set designed by David Korins. The show has a little bit of everything, from ghostly cheerleaders, to gospel singers, to emotional breakdowns and the ultimate “don’t kill yourself” song (What I Know Now) sung by Miss Argentina played by Leslie Kritzer. 

Around mid-summer, popular social media video app TikTok got a hold of the soundtrack. Since then, people have been making videos accompanying the songs, all together gaining millions of views. With the use of TikTok and other social medias, the Broadway musical went from gaining a rather steady audience to selling out shows overnight. The show became so popular that they had to extend their closing date from January 2020, to April 2020. Popular retail stores such as Hot Topic restocked their Beetlejuice merchandise, selling at least twice as many products than what they used to have. Iconic memorabilia such as Lydia’s red gothic wedding dress, and copies of the  Handbook For the Recently Deceased can be found there. 

The sudden spike in popularity is well worth it for the show. Beetlejuice the Musical is a show not typically seen on a normal Broadway stage. The performers reportedly make many sacrifices for the sake of the production production. In an Elvis Duran Show interview, Alex Brightman (Beetlejuice) talked about how he achieves his iconic “Beetlejuice” voice. He has to manipulate his vocal chords and access his “false” chords. While it does not harm him, it is still a difficult thing to achieve. It reportedly took him months to learn. 

The incredibly detailed gothic funhouse set is guaranteed to wow audiences. It is detailed to the creases, featuring some amazing special effects such as levitating the characters without strings, or making objects disappear into thin air with the flick of a flame. Other fun aspects include a giant snake, a huge dance number featuring multiple Beetlejuice clones, and the hilarious and iconic “Day-O” number used from the original movie. The show overall is guaranteed to produce sensory-overload. 

Besides the set and special effects, the humor is another main thing that sets the musical apart. The character’s personalities are greatly exaggerated for effect. For example, the moody teenage protagonist, Lydia, played by Sophia Anne Caruso, is introduced by her laying on a couch saying “does this couch make me look dead?” The super-vanilla and basic (and dead) couple, Barbara and Adam, played by Kerry Butler and now David Josefsberg (previously by Rob McClure, who left on Sept. 22), have a whole song dedicated to their love of pottery and the stresses of preparing to have a kid. While the show mainly focuses on crude humor, there are also themes of dark humor. For example, the song, “Girl Scout,” is about scaring a little girl with a heart condition. The song, “Creepy Old Guy,” is about child marriages. The show is not meant for the weak hearted or younger audiences. Those who appreciate dark humor will love it immensely. Nonetheless, it leaves audiences plastered with a stupid smile throughout the show.

Beetlejuice is one of those shows that no one would think make it. Despite some hate in the earlier productions, the show nonetheless blew up overnight. Now it breaks box office records with sold out performances practically each night. No other show deserves it as much. The effort put into making it a memorable production in Broadway history is remarkable.