BEETLEJUICE: Review – death has never been so much fun

BEETLEJUICE: Review – death has never been so much fun

There’s a party spirit evident upon entering the Winter Garden Theatre for a performance of Beetlejuice – the new musical based on the 1988 film directed by Tim Burton. The ushers wish theatergoers a cheery “welcome to Beetlejuice” greeting (cheerful ushers being a relative rarity in this Broadway theatergoer’s experience), the theater is filled with a recorded track of eerily playful instrumental music reminiscent of Burton’s frequent composer Danny Elfman, and above the stage is a neon sign reading “Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse.” (Betelgeuse is presumably the correct spelling of the title character’s name. The “Beetlejuice” of the title is a phonetic spelling).  The assembled audience displayed a palpable excitement and sense of anticipation waiting for the show to begin, clearly expecting a good time, which this Broadway musical more than delivers.

BEETLEJUICE is a musical about death

The musical opens in a cemetery where the mother of a teenaged Lydia Deetz (Sophia Anne Caruso) and widow of Charles Deetz (Adam Dannheiser) is being buried. All in attendance are grieving, but Lydia is completely distraught. After a mournful ballad is sung by Caruso as Lydia, Alex Brightman takes the stage as Beetlejuice, clad in the trademark Beetlejuice suit of wide black and white stripes we might remember from the film. Serving both as emcee and main character, Beetlejuice acknowledges to the audience the irony of a musical about death, with the song, The Whole Being Dead Thing. With occasional digs at front row audience members along the way, Beetlejuice takes us to the elegant country home of a childless young couple, Adam and Barbara Maitland. The couple have thoughts about starting a family, but aren’t ready just yet. They’re too busy restoring their home to the level of Country Living Magazine perfection. Beetlejuice lets the audience in on the news that Adam and Barbara are about to die – as indeed they do by falling through some rickety floorboards into the basement. Trouble is, they’re not exactly dead but rather undead like Beetlejuice.  They’re still in the land of the living but can’t be seen by the living. Beetlejuice explains that he will remain invisible to the living until a living person says his name three times. He thinks he’s found a way when to enlist Adam and Barbara to his cause when Lydia’s father Charles and his new wife Delia (Leslie Kritzer) buy the house of the now deceased Maitlands. The new owners plan to redecorate it in gauche contemporary fashion and make it the model home of a tacky subdivision.  The arrival of the Deetzs, though, becomes more significant when it becomes evident that the death-obsessed Lydia can actually see Beetlejuice. Unhappy with her life and especially with her new stepmom, Lydia becomes a willing ally in the myriad sorts of havoc Beetlejuice and the Maitlands cause for Charles and Delia.

Beetlejuice is an explosion of visual invention

Beetlejuice’s plan to scare the wits out of the Deetzs, and given that he has all of the forces of death and the supernatural at his disposal, there are no limits on what he and the production designers can come up with to frighten away the Deetzs (and anyone else who may wander into the house). This opens up a field day of visual invention. Director Alex Timbers and his design team use puppetry, projections, lighting effects, costumes and makeup to bring demons, monsters and ghosts to the stage and continually surprise the audience with Beetlejuice’s bag of tricks.

A cast led by some of Broadway’s funniest performers

Beetlejuice’s visual inventiveness would be for naught if not for a cast that can pull off the dark humor of Eddie Perfect’s lyrics and Scott Brown and Anthony King’s book (based closely but not slavishly on the film’s story and screenplay by Michael McDowell, Larry Wilson and Warren Skaaren). In this writer’s opinion, the producers of Beetlejuice struck gold with their lead actors. Alex Brightman, who earned Tony nominations for this role and for the lead in School of Rock: the Musical, gives us a Beetlejuice that is crude and outrageous, but with enough charm to keep the audience with him. He’s the power driving this show but is matched by the veterans Rob McClure and Kerry Butler as the sweet but often-clueless Maitlands, by Leslie Kritzer as the insecure Delia, and Adam Dannheiser as the too self-assured Charles. (McClure played his last performance on September 22 and has been replaced by David Josefsberg). This writer believes, though, that the breakout star of Beetlejuice will be Sophia Anne Caruso – a young actress with a big voice and perfect comic timing who can also touch one’s heart in the musical’s tender moments.

Beetlejuice is a perfect show for audiences looking to experience all the magic of a big Broadway show and enjoy performances of musical theater actors at the top of their game,  and who also don’t mind a modicum of raunch in their humor. It offered the most fun this writer has had at a musical in quite some time.



Alex Brightman (Beetlejuice)
Sophia Anne Caruso (Lydia)
Kerry Butler (Barbara)
Rob McClure (Adam)
Adam Dannheiser (Charles)
Leslie Kritzer (Delia)
Jill Abramovitz (Maxine Dean, Juno)
Kelvin Moon Loh (Otho)
Danny Rutigliano (Maxie Dean)
Dana Steingold (Girl Scout)
Tessa Alves (Ensemble)
Gilbert L. Bailey II (Ensemble)
Will Blum (Ensemble)
Johnny Brantley III (Ensemble)
Ryan Breslin (Ensemble)
Brooke Engen (Ensemble)
Natalie Charle Ellis (Ensemble)
Abe Goldfarb (Ensemble)
Eric Anthony Johnson (Ensemble)
Zachary Daniel Jones (Ensemble)
Elliott Mattox (Ensemble)
Mateo Melendez (Ensemble)
Sean Montgomery (Ensemble)
Ramone Owens (Ensemble)
Presley Ryan (Ensemble)
Kim Sava (Ensemble)


Eddie Perfect (Music and Lyrics, Additional Arrangements)
Scott Brown & Anthony King (Book)
Alex Timbers (Director)
Connor Gallagher (Choreographer)
David Korins (Scenic Design)
William Ivey Long (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Peter Hylenski (Sound Design)
Peter Nigrini (Projection Design)
Michael Curry (Puppet Design)
Jeremy Chernick (Special Effects Design)
Michael Weber (Magic & Illusion Design)
Charles G. LaPoint (Hair & Wig Design)
Joe DuLude II (Make Up Design)
Kris Kukul (Music Supervision, Orchestration & Incidental Music, Additional Arrangements)
David Dabbon (Dance Arrangements)
Matt Stine (Music Producer)
Howard Jones (Music Coordinator)
Lorenzo Pisoni (Physical Movement Coordinator)
Matt DiCarlo (Production Stage Manager)
Catie Davis (Associate Director)
Nancy Renee Braun (Associate Choreographer)
Rachel Hoffman, Telsey & Associates (Casting)


Closes June 6, 2020.


Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7pm,
Friday and Saturday at 8pm,
Sunday at 7:30pm with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2pm.


Winter Garden Theatre
1634 Broadway
New York, NY 10019


$59.00 - $225.00

For tickets and more information visit the website for BEETLEJUICE

Photos by Matthew Murphy

About the Author:

John Olson is an arts carnivore who is particularly a love of music, theatre and film. He studied piano, trombone and string bass into his college years, performing in bands and orchestras in high school and college, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While working as an advertising agency account manager, he began a second career as an arts journalist and is now principal of John Olson Communications, a marketing and public relations business serving arts and entertainment clients.

John Olson Photo by G. Thomas Ward
Share this:

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *