Review: BEETLEJUICE at Broadway Dallas

It’s SHOWTIME! Don’t be afraid...head to Music Hall at Fair Park to scream, laugh, cringe, and cry during Broadway’s BEETLEJUICE. February 20-March 3.

By: Feb. 24, 2024
Review: BEETLEJUICE at Broadway Dallas
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When I think about it, going to see a show about dead people who coexist with a demon and haunt their own home sounds like quite a downer for a Wednesday night. However, with Broadway’s BEETLEJUICE directed by Alex Timbers, that just isn’t the case. The writing of Scott Brown and Anthony King along with music and lyrics from Eddie Perfect turned this “show about death” into an evening of hilarity. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was excited as soon as I saw the stage. A large neon sign reading “BETELGEUSE” was suspended in front of the curtains, and a fog illuminated in green escaped from the split in the center. A large roar filled the room before spooky music and strobe lights transported us to a graveyard, where the story begins. I have to admit, the audience–myself included–cheered a little too enthusiastically about arriving at a graveyard. I guess we could just feel that hilariously haunting spirit!

Despite having a difficult time hearing the cast for a majority of the show (This seemed to be fixed after intermission.), it was clear that each cast member was well suited for their role. Justin Collette's raspy and bold voice is exactly what I imagine a loony but somehow loveable demon would sound like. The energy Collette put into each of Beetlejuice’s moods, songs, and jokes was perfect, and he did a great job including the audience in his shenanigans. With an equally or even more powerful voice was Isabella Esler. As her character, Lydia, became stronger, so did Esler’s voice; her performance was compelling. Esler naturally played the part of the spunky, unapologetic young girl who was doing her best to navigate grief. 

In thinking about more likely (and legal) couples, one family brought the story to life, or in this case, death. Megan McGinnis and Will Burton played the immediately lovable Maitlands. McGinnis’s beautiful voice paired with her character’s timid attitude made Barbara Maitland’s transition to Barbara 2.0 surprising and exciting. Burton had some incredibly unique dance moves that not only brought the comfortably nerdy Adam Maitland’s character to life but also caught the attention of their resident demon–so much so that Adam should now only be referred to as “Sexy.” McGinnis and Burton had clear chemistry, and I appreciated their ode to pre-children, young couples who are trying every hobby under the sun while figuring out what the hell to do with their lives. 

Unlike the Maitlands, I was initially not so fond of Lydia’s father, Charles, and his new love interest, Delia. Jesse Sharp had a demanding presence on stage, matching his character’s desire to keep control of an increasingly difficult situation. Sarah Litzsinger as Delia was…a lot, which is exactly how she should be. Her practices as Lydia’s failed Life Coach and her unique pronunciations of words were hilarious yet hateable, and Litzsinger played that part well. 

The audience had some clear favorites despite these characters’ appearances being brief. At one point we were transported to the Neitherworld (aka the gateway to Hell), and everyone was cheering, clapping, and wooing thanks to Hillary Porter’s performance as Miss Argentina. We later couldn’t help but laugh in response to Kris Roberts’s own cackle as the seemingly mindless Maxine Dean and later as the stern but slow-moving Juno. We eventually were able to meet the mysterious and superficially wise Otho, played by Abe Goldfarb, whose mannerisms were absolutely hilarious. What do you associate with Girl Scouts? Is it an unpredictable and potentially lethal heart condition? It’s not? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Jackera Davis as the Girl Scout perfectly summed up the themes of this show. The setting was bright and colorful, the character was smiling and singing beautifully, but the lyrics themselves revealed a dark truth and threat of sudden death. I can’t help but notice that each character in this musical has some grim aspect to them, and thank goodness for that, because the crowd absolutely loved it. 

As impressed as I was by the cast, in this performance the crew’s hard work really caught my attention. First, Connor Gallagher’s choreography consisted of absolute chaos in the best way. At times there were bodies flying everywhere, groups dancing in tandem, individuals moving their limbs as if possessed, and I was enamored. I don’t think this performance would have had the same crazy-creepy-funhouse essence without Gallagher and his team, and it certainly wouldn’t have included the amusement of multiple possession-related dance breaks. Contributing to the success of the choreography were the costumes by William Ivey Long and props. There were Beetlejuice cheerleaders, a choir, skeletons with giant heads, multiple Beetlejuices in suits, and many more eye-catching ensembles that I really enjoyed.

I also found myself captivated and excited about the set and use of lighting, sound effects, and visuals. The home where the tale mostly unfolds had such stark angles. They were funky and fun, and as the house changed ownership, these angles remained but reflected the style of each owner. David Korins’s scenic design was brilliant, evidenced by the frequently transforming home, but also the beautiful purple curtains that acted as a backdrop for many moments of the show. There were times when the interesting patterned curtains acted as the backdrop and others when Peter Nigrini’s projections appeared on the curtains as the new setting. I enjoyed this variety! At one point when the curtains were away and we were in the attic of the house, a ray of moonlight shone through the window which struck me as beautifully authentic. Kenneth Posner’s talents were evident in that moment but were also clear as various spotlights and strobe lights appeared throughout the show. For some of the craziness of this story to ensue, Kenneth Posner, Peter Nigrini, Peter Hylenski, Michael Curry, Jeremy Chernick, and Michael Weber, and more did an impressive job collaborating to bring these situations to life. We witnessed a funhouse of revenge, a Life or Death game show, multiple possessions, a giant sand worm, and much more, and thanks to the crew, those moments matched the strange yet addicting chaos of this entire show.

I often found myself getting lost in the humanity of the characters, flashy musical numbers, and fun costumes. Then, each time I had nearly convinced myself that this was a heartwarming, wholesome tale, Mr. Juice would say something entirely inappropriate, abruptly bringing me back to reality. (Do not–I repeat, do NOT–ask him about guacamole.) Of course there were moments filled with hope and truth, but overall he meant what he said–it’s a show about death. 

If you are in search of a way to poke fun at a serious and scary topic such as death, you should go see this show. If you are wanting to laugh at a character who isn’t afraid to comment on the issues of today, you really should go see this show. Most importantly, if you are a community member wanting to support Dallas ISD and their students in STEM, you must go see this show. (Read more about that here.) Overall, it was fun, occasionally cringy, often creepy, and mostly cheerful with a few pull at your heartstrings moments–what I believe to be a good balance. So, take a breath, celebrate that you’re alive, don’t take yourself so seriously, and go hang out with a demon for a night. Luckily you don’t have to say his name three times to see him…you can just head to Music Hall at Fair Park!

Details: 

Music Hall at Fair Park February 20-March 3. Purchase tickets through the Broadway Dallas website. Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. Please take the time to visit the tour website to learn more about the amazing Cast and Crew.

Book By: Scott Brown and Anthony King (Based on the Geffen Company Picture, with a story by Michael McDowell & Larry Wilson)

Music and Lyrics From: Eddie Perfect

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy, 2022


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