top of page

3/19/2024     BEETLEJUICE                National Tour /  Broadway in Atlanta / Fox Theatre




pgm eetlejuice.jpg

The calendar may believe it’s the first day of spring, but my gut tells me the skeletal chill of October has taken up residence in the Fabulous Fox Theatre.  Macabre music and wandering green lights greet us as we creep to our dimly lit seats – too dim to read any program notes (as is usual at the Fox).  Even the vaunted pre-show organ concert has chosen to remain far from Peachtree Street, the massive pipe organ trembling in fear in its below-the-pit vault.  A pre-recorded curtain speech struggles (and fails) to be heard over the pre-show music.


Suddenly, blinding flashes of light wreak havoc with our dimness-dilated pupils, thunder crashes all around us, and the stage comes to life.  Well, death.  It is a funeral after all, attended by black-clad mourners, accompanied by rain and gloom and a plaintive ballad sung by the daughter of the deceased.


Such a bold departure from the original source material!


But, before long, our erstwhile host makes his appearance and in a flurry of ghastly ghostly grim and gruesome energy, gleefully welcomes us to a “show about death!”


Yes, this is Beetlejuice!  Based on the popular 1988 Tim Burton movie, this Musical! Musical! Musical! (I probably don’t need to say it three times – but why take a chance?) had a 2018 tryout before opening on Broadway in 2019.  This is my second visit, as I

saw it on Broadway with my uncommon daughter two years ago and, to be sure, it is well worth multiple viewings.  Sure I can quibble about a few aspects that needed to be “scaled back” for the tour, whine about the (slightly) less-then-Broadway-perfect performances from some of the cast (no doubt exhausted from travel and rehearsal and too-many cities and towns and theatres).  But this is still a brilliantly conceived work, a hilarious and morbid excursion into darkness.  Its score is even a tad evocative of Randy Newman’s memorable film music.  It is a life-celebrating, lively and vibrant musical.  About Death!


If anyone needs a recap, I will indulge you.  The Maitlands (Barbara and Adam) have bought a wreck of a Connecticut house with plans to craft it into a perfect home.  The house has other ideas, and they are soon dead and ghostly, desperate to rid their home of the new owners, Lydia Deetz and her newly widowed father, Charles, who plan on gutting the house’s antique charm and filling it with noveau kitsch.  Along with the Deetz’s is Delia, Lydia’s Life-Coach-for-Hire and Charles’ current bedmate.


Have I mentioned Beetlejuice yet?  A wildly manic spirit, he is chafing at the idea that everyone alive sees right through him.   His plan is to be seen (just say his name three times) and eventually come back to life (just get Lydia to marry him – it’s not creepy, just a “Green Card” thing).  Along the way, there is …. Well, why spoil it for you?  Half the fun of this show is the pinball magical energy and surprise, the off-the-hook visuals and the its-all-in-good-fun portrait of horror and demons and possessions and girl scouts and screams (“that beautiful sound”).  I can just imagine the Stage Manager calling “Giant Snake – GO!”


So, apparently the role of Beetlejuice requires a master of improv who can go on and off script at will, doing his darndest to corpse his castmates and drive his audience into gales of giddy guffaws.  Like Alex Brightman on Broadway, Justin Collette here succeeds at all these tasks (maybe not the corpsing, though there were a few moments that certainly came close).  He is a tightly-wound ball of demonic energy, springing into wild riffs of nonsense and stream-of-consciousness wordplay, relishing every moment, every twist of circumstance, every missed-juncture that turns into a new opportunity.  He is the engine that drives this production and has a not-insignificant amount of fun bringing us along for the ride.


As Lydia, Isabella Esler ( * ) is a young talent to be reckoned with, successfully blending the gloomy moments of grief with a not unwholesome glee in the havoc she and Beetlejuice inflict on the living.  Megan McGinnis and Will Burton give the Maitland’s a dorky charm that transcends their bland essence;  these are certainly the friendliest ghosts to haunt a not-as-creepy-as-it-seems old house.  I also really enjoyed Sarah Litzsinger’s Delia --  she sparkles with sex appeal and looniness and is a total joy to watch.  In other roles are Jackera Davis (the Girl Scout) ( * ), Hillary Porter (Miss Argentina) and Kris Roberts (Juno), all of whom form part of the 20-strong ensemble who ping-pong from role to role and group to group, including a stage full of Beetlejuice clones. 


I really loved how the show was adjusted for tour, projections (by Peter Nigrini) doing a casket-full of mood-and-place settings, and a front curtain isolating moments that allow for massive scenery changes to occur silently and quickly.  David Korins (sets), William Ivey Long (Costumes), and Kenneth Posner (Lights) all combine to create a physical look that is outrageous and macabre and totally fitting.  As for the sound design, the mix suffered the usual Fox shortcomings – particularly lyrics overwhelmed by accompaniment – but effects were timed perfectly and were an asset to the technical “ensemble.”


The real stars of this production are of course the book (Scott Brown and Anthony King) and the score (music and lyrics by Eddie Perfect).  They do not disappoint fans of the original movie and ramp up the silliness and ghoulish energy brought to the stage by the cast.


So, by any means necessary, wend your way Fox-ward for a delightful wallow in Beetlejuice (The Musical! The Musical! The Musical!)!  Like Atlanta’s own Netherworld Haunted House, this show is a perfect blend of laughs and thrills, spectacle and calm, families and foibles, corpses and creepy old men, music and mayhem.  What’s not to love about that?


    --  Brad Rudy  (


#BroadwayInAtlanta   #FoxTheatre  #Beetlejuice

( * )   Oops!   Apparently last night's cast featured Understudies Jackera Davis as Lydia and Larkin Reilly (I Think) as the Girl Scout.  No announcement was made (that I heard) and I saw no notice in the lobby.  I shoulda hadda oughtta looked at the cast Head Shots before diving into this review.   I apologize for the error but stand by my judgment of the resulting (most excellent) performances by both Understudies.  

bottom of page