Review: “Beetlejuice” comes to Broadway Broadway Broadway

Christian Lewis
4 min readMay 7, 2019

In the never-ending saga of movies turned into musical, we end this season by adding to the list “Beelejuice,” the beloved Tim Burton film from 1988. Fans of the film and its titular, black-and-white stripe-wearing ghoul will probably love this adaptation; even though Scott Brown and Anthony King, who wrote the book, have made significant changes in plot, the production as a whole perfectly captures the essence, comedy, and aesthetic of the original.

This is primarily achieved through design. The set, a crooked house that transforms in stages from classic Victorian to hellish haunted house, is designed by David Korins and provides a perfect canvas for the green and purple lights by Kenneth Posner and the creepy projections by Peter Nigrini. The costumes take the signature looks and give them a modern twist; they are designed by William Ivey Long, who despite being accused of sexual assault has still managed to get work on Broadway. Throw in a massive puppet or two by Michael Curry and some scary special effects by Jeremy Chernick and you’ve got a perfect translation of the “Beetlejuice” film to the stage.

Like the film it tells the story of a couple, Barbara and Adam Maitland (Kerry Butler and Rob McClure, who are underutilized) who have recently died and haunt the new occupants of their house: widower Charles (Adam Dannheisser), his goth teenage daughter Lydia (Sophia Anne Caruso), and his life coach / girlfriend Delia (Leslie Kritzer in a performance that is so comedic it’s bound to become iconic). Leading the show, of course, is the demon Beetlejuice, played by Alex Brightman with bizarre but incredibly enjoyable panache.

In particular, Butler and Kritzer steal the show; Butler as the most innocent Connecticut wife-turned confused ghost and Kritzer as a crystal-clutching, guru-quoting ball of hilarity. Brightman does an impeccable job carrying the musical along and has found an interpretation of the role that honors the original but is still wholly his own. However, the young newcomer Caruso is almost intolerable; she frequently comes off as a goth orphan Annie, who sounds more like she is competing on a…

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Christian Lewis

Theater Critic. Vassar College alum, current PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center.