Come On… Say Beetlejuice Three Times

Broadway in Ft. Lauderdale has found its closing show for the 2022-2023 in Beetlejuice, the musical retelling of the cult classic movie. At the Broward Center, this show promises to make you laugh, maybe feel a little comfort in however you define your sexuality, and the cast and crew deliver the experience of being dead. South Florida Theater Magazine was there on opening night to report back that this is a show that aspires, and achieves, to be better than its source material. Yes, this musical improves on the movie in several ways, and that’s why it’s worthy of a closing slot.

The set design for the show truly encapsulated the aesthetic of a run-down, side-of-the-road style delivery of the afterlife, a world where all dead people still walk around, but the living cannot see them. Before the show even started, a giant road sign lighted “Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse” over top of the curtain, creating the atmosphere that the audience was about to take a trip far, far away.

Justin Collette (Beetlejuice) and Tour Company of Beetlejuice (Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022)

If you have seen the movie, then you’ll be familiar with the characters and plot of the musical, even if it’s different. I mean, you can’t misplace the green-haired, white-and-black pinstriped dead guy, but the continuity was improved upon from the 1988 movie. First off, the Maitlands die from faulty wiring instead of a car crash, but they haunt their house all the same. The addition of songs to Beetlejuice’s introduction and narration added a missing element to the film; the changes kept the audience member engaged from the first note.

Here’s the rundown: Lydia, a teenager whose mother has just recently passed away, wants to reconnect with the dead. Luckily for all the dead people around her, she can see them based on her uniqueness and strangeness. Beetlejuice seizes upon the opportunity to bring himself back to life, purely to cure his own terminal case of loneliness.

Isabella Esler (Lydia) (Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022)

I think one of the most impressive feats of this performance, or show in general, is the addition of these clever, catchy songs to the story (most of us) are familiar with. Lydia sings about her dead mom, struggling with a world without the person who meant the most to her. Beetlejuice sings about tricking everyone, just to escape his own company. The Maitlands sing about not living their life to the fullest and now must confront Lydia’s mortality by helping her against the green-haired corpse.

In my interview with Isabella Esler (Lydia), she mentioned that her favorite part of the musical is the beginning of Act 2, where Beetlejuice is starting to come alive, Lydia having just said his name three times, and there are clones of Beetlejuice appearing everywhere on stage. It was hilarious and fast-paced, your eyes never lingering too long on one face or swing of the hip.

Pictured (L-R): Kate Marilley (Delia) and Jesse Sharp (Charles) (Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022)

Why I believe it improved upon the movie is that there was more sustenance in each of the scenes, unraveling a rich backstory while entertaining the crowd with laughs. Beetlejuice was presented as a bisexual deviant and the Maitlands felt more real than their movie counterparts. But the biggest, and most satisfying change, was the improvement on Delia’s character, Lydia’s stepmom, played by Kate Marilley. In the movie, she’s just an overtly hated character, but in the musical, she becomes a holistic life coach who stole the show with each line.

In her words, “first you start with ‘Sucks,’ then you get to “Yes!” “Sucks … Yes! … Success!”

I’ll also be the first one in South Florida to say that I think this musical is better than the movie, and I’ll even go farther by saying that Justin Collete’s Beetlejuice is better than Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice. But, you should go see it for yourself and tell me. Careful how many times you say that funky name, though.

You can catch Beetlejuice until June 25 at the Broward Center. Get your tickets here

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