By Sue Morgan
If the measure of theatrical success is audience appreciation, Beetlejuice The Musical – at Golden Gate Theatre, San Francisco, through December 31st – is a runaway hit.
Eddie Perfect, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show, clues us in from the get-go that this is not your parents’ Beetlejuice. The play opens on the funeral for Emily Deetz, who has left behind her husband and 16ish-year-old daughter Lydia, (flawlessly played by Nevada Riley, understudy for Isabella Esler) who plaintively sings, “You’re invisible when you’re sad.”
Before Riley’s final note has dissipated, Beetlejuice himself, an exquisitely unsavory Justin Collette, jumps in to bark, “Holy crap! A ballad already? And such a bold departure from the original source material!” before launching into his bravura opening number “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing,” which left the audience roaring with applause. He also warns us that, as with Tim Burton’s original late ‘80s film starring Michael Keaton, much of the humor is based around Beetlejuice, a lecherously loathsome character, and his vile, wholly inappropriate attention to basically anyone who comes within groping distance.
…a night of madcap fun…
Collette makes it clear that this is not a politically correct production as he jeers, “I know you’re woke–but you can take a joke…?” Apparently, most of the audience at the opening night performance were able to do just that.
In addition to Lydia and Beetlejuice, the story line follows newly deceased young couple Barbara and Adam (astutely cast Britney Coleman and Will Burton, respectively) as they try to terrorize Lydia, her father Charles (appropriately simpering Jesse Sharp), and Lydia’s “life coach,” Delia (the excellently flaky gold-digging Kate Marilley), who have moved into the home where Barbara and Adam intend to spend eternity. Unable to frighten them into leaving the home, Barbara seeks help from self-proclaimed “bio-exorcist” Beetlejuice.
Where Burton’s original Lydia was an angsty and morbidly inquisitive teen, authors Scott Brown and Anthony King have reimagined her as maudlin and depressed. Riley is a talented actor and exceptional singer who performs both song and dialog with passion, flair and bravado that often transcend the often-insipid material she has to work with. Brown and King appear to be attempting to evoke genuine compassion and empathy from the audience, a misstep for a story never intended to be anything other than a quirky, campy romp.
Collette is a believably reprehensible Beetlejuice and manages to repel us even after we learn the backstory about his loveless childhood. Again, this reviewer felt that the attempts to add poignancy to the production fell flat. Collette’s performance, however, is fantastic and his manic antics, as well as the stunning visuals – Beetlejuice multiplied exponentially; the perfectly recreated sandworm; multiple ensemble numbers; stunning costuming – combine to provide a night of madcap fun.
For those looking for a night of off-beat (and off-base) humor and a fantastic cast of outstanding performers, Beetlejuice The Musical will not disappoint.
|Production||Beetlejuice: The Musical|
|Written by||Scott Brown & Anthony King|
Musical direction by
|Production Dates||Thru December 31, 2022|
|Production Address||Golden Gate Theatre
1 Taylor St. San Francisco, CA
|Tickets||$40 - $264|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review Pick?||YES!|