Parenting from the Wings: Outrage and Online Action- The Lessons and Bond of Young Fans and #savebeetlejuice
When my daughter texted me a link and followed up with an in-person(!) plea for me to sign the #savebeetlejuice petition, I'll admit pride was not the word I was looking for. I mean of all the possible change.org petitions, this is what she brings to me with such passion? No social justice issue or environmental cause?
Save Alex Brightman? He's a pretty talented guy. I think he'll be fine. What about the polar bears and bees and voters illegally purged from the rolls?
But after some old person reflection, let this be my public apology: I missed the point by going directly to default dismissive. There is a bigger issue to the online outrage about Beetlejuice that is driven by the musical's young fans. There is a legitimate reason she was also pretty distraught when The Prom and Be More Chill announced they were closing. These shows speak to kids, who relate to the characters and feel like they know the actors who embody them. They play the original cast album over and over. They make Tik Toks and the young performers among them dream of one day taking over the roles.
This was something my daughter loves and it's being taken away. The decision says her thing doesn't matter. Evicted. For Music Man. In that tween and teen world where everyone is against them, add this to the list. Something they think is theirs is going to be gone for something from the olden days. (Indulge the self-absorbed perspective of these young people. It's how we all were after all. Besides, they don't know this show was as much for their parents to wax nostalgic and buy tickets for a much-needed escape.)
Brightman appeared truly affected by how much fans cared, which showed them that they can have an impact on people by showing a little appreciation for someone's work.
"Sincerely touched by all of the amazing and continuing love for our show," he tweeted. "We may be getting evicted, but before we leave, we're going to keep defying expectations, selling out houses, and doing our big fat fucked up haunted house spectacular for all of YOU. Thanks, again."
Castmate Leslie Kritzer seconded the vow to bring the house down eight times a week.
"We are not going out without doing six months of killer shows for all of you," she tweeted. "You are the reason why we are a SUCKS-YES!!!!!! #beetlejuicethemusical #beetlejuicebroadway."
When my daughter expresses confusion and frustration about a show she loves closing, my response is usually, "It's about money and star power." It's tough to explain this one honestly. That may still be true. But she counters with the fact that Beetlejuice was doing well at the box office recently and Brightman and Butler (and Rob McClure as part of the original cast) are big Broadway stars-although maybe not exactly Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster BIG.
But Broadway is about more than the stars. When Kerry Butler posted about the non-performers associated with the show who would be losing their jobs, it helped my daughter understand the larger impact, think about the people beyond the stage.
Butler was also one of many cast members who reminded fans that while it's OK to be angry about the decision, it is not OK to be critical of Music Man or post nasty comments about the show or its cast. (A good lesson, thank you!) And she continues to keep it positive.
"Be thankful in all situations!" she posted. "I am finding new depths to my character! The Maitlands are actually being kicked out of their home. #methodacting @BeetlejuiceBway #savebeetlejuice"
So here we are. Beetlejuice might find a new home or it might hit the road for a tour or it might, well, die. In the meantime, from now until the last scheduled show on June 6, young fans will revel in an us-against-them bond--with Brightman as their guide.