This Halloween I want you to try something truly terrifying. Stare into the void and accept the inevitability of your own demise.
Beetlejuice the Musical (the Musical the Musical) begun its Broadway run in Spring of 2019. Based on the 1988 Tim Burton classic, the show is centered around gothic fifteen-year-old, Lydia, as she processes the death of her mother. The production is another in the ongoing trend of well received musical adaptations which has brought us the Heathers: The Musical, the Mean Girls musical and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical.
The show was evicted from the wintergarden theater after management chose to make room for Hugh Jackman’s revival of The Music Man. Due to COVID-19, the show’s last production was on March 10. Despite a middling initial response, the show has gathered a large fandom, all of whom were extremely disappointed following the Dec. 9 announcement.
The show is much different than the film. While the film follows the Maitlands as they attempt to defend their home following their untimely demise with the help of the eccentric demon known as Beetlejuice, the musical follows Lydia as she attempts to get her father to emotionally validate her following the untimely demise of her mother with the help of the eccentric demon known as Beetlejuice.
The show itself is amazing, Sophia Anne Caruso as Lydia really grounded the show emotionally and Alex Brightman as Beetlejuice did everything in his power to drive the show towards insanity. The supporting cast is terrific as well, with Leslie Kritzer as Delia and Ms. Argentina stealing whatever scene she was in. The lyrics, written by Eddie Perfect, are extremely detailed, and in fact often overshadow the written dialogue. Every one of these pieces individually would make a good musical, but together they weave together a great work of art, but even still they’re not what makes the show so special.
Beetlejuice the Musical (the Musical the Musical) is a show about death, that is to say while the original film features three deceased characters, the show is about grief, how we accept our own deaths and how we justify our lives. The clearest example of this is the song No Reason. Delia, Lydia’s live in life coach and future stepmother (it’s complicated) attempts to tell Lydia that “Everything happens for a reason” and Lydia responds, “The universe is random”. Delia compromises and decides “The universe is random for a reason”, and triumphantly walks off stage.
There are a lot of moments like that sprinkled in, whether it’s the Maitlands singing a song about deciding not to seize the day before plummeting through the floor to their death, Beetlejuice’s quest to join the living (if only to terrorize us more efficiently) or the inhabitants of the Netherworld singing about how they took life for granted. While at first this may just seem like a show with a dark sense of humor, when you take these scenes as parts of a greater message.
This is not a self-help book, nor does it seek to provide clear and concise instructions on how to live or die. Beetlejuice the musical (the musical the musical) is a piece about our inevitable demise, told through the silliest possible means. It’s very fitting that towards the end of Beetlejuice’s first song he delivers the line “From the cradle to cremation, death just needs a little conversation.” The reason this show has stuck with so many people is its willingness to talk about this extremely difficult aspect of life, the good, the dark and the darkly funny.
Good things can’t last forever. There’s something morbidly ironic about COVID-19 being what lead to a show discussing death replaced with a show about a con-artist who sells a small town a good feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on. Despite its short lifespan, Beetlejuice the musical (the musical the musical) has left a legacy behind it. Still I find myself hoping that if I say this show’s name three time it will magically be revived with the entire original cast, and so I was hoping everyone at home would humor me and chant in unison this last time. Let our combined energy bring back this treasure and curse The Music Man into a thousand X-Men spinoffs. Ready, let’s go: BEETLEJUICE, BEETLEJUICE, BEETLEJUICE!