By Idan Mor ‘21
Let me say up-front that when one of my friends urged me to come with her to the Broadway musical “Beetlejuice,” my first instinct was to laugh in her face. Clearly, I would not like to spend my time watching another mediocre play based on a dearly beloved film. There are too many examples in Broadway history that prove this combination to be a bad one.
I was so wrong. Watching Beetlejuice unfold so gorgeously at the Winter Garden Theater got me thinking about all the elements in the play that made it so magnificent and such a different experience than the one I had anticipated.
The first element that popped in my mind was its soundtrack, for which the musical was nominated for “Best Original Score Written for the Theater” at the 2019 73rd Tony Awards. The score gives the audience information about the plot of the musical, while not relying too much on the music to tell the tale. The musical takes classic song types and gives them their own interesting takes. The “I am super emotional because I really want something” song is sung by the young and very unusual lead Lydia singing about her dead mother, and the “comic list” song with the crazy Betelguese singing about being dead are particularly unique. I even heard some new song types I had never experienced before, such as the “super strange song that leaves the audience laughing” with “Day-O The Banana Boat Song” and “Creepy Old Guy”. Beetlejuice’s soundtrack is one of those scores that you will keep listening to on repeat for weeks after the show.
In addition to the remarkable soundtrack, Alex Brightman’s phenomenal performance is the best reason to see the musical. The two times Tony Award nominee actor, who plays the lead of Betelgeuse, an insane demon with a thing for stripes, steals the show. His performance keeps you on the edge of your seat, just waiting for the next time he is on stage. By far, the show’s high point is Brightman’s opening number, “The Whole Being Dead Thing,” which starts the show on the exact tone it continues on: hysterical and with manic energy. He appears after one of the few dull songs in the musical, “Invisible”, and starts explaining to the audience what it’s like to be dead. He sings, “You’re gonna be fine… On the other side…,” and then switches to, “DIE! YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE! YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”
Another element that makes “Beetlejuice” so hypnotic is its set, which also received a Tony Award nomination for “Best Scenic Design of a Musical”. The story takes place in the house of the Maitlands, where the recently deceased couple is trying to win their house back after a new family, along with Betelgeuse, has moved in. The set of the house, designed by David Korins, is one of the most astonishing sets I have ever seen. The design changes four times during the show; everything from the chairs in the dining room to the pattern of the wallpaper changes completely, which was extraordinary and matched the tone of the musical well.
With all due respect to the elements I have presented above, there is one reason this show is worth seeing above all– the extreme feeling of pleasure you get after seeing an outstanding musical.