Never in the history of Dr. Phillips Center has there been so many audience members wearing black and white stripes with green accents. That dedicated enthusiasm alone shows the fandom that is “Beetlejuice,” the musical.
Based on the 1988 Academy Award-winning film by Tim Burton, the story begins with Lydia Deetz, a peculiar, goth-esque teen obsessed with death who recently lost her mother. As luck would have it, a couple who just recently passed but didn’t follow the light haunts her new home. A lascivious demon named Beetlejuice joins them with a penchant for black and white stripes with green hair. When Lydia solicits their aid, musical theater hilarity ensues.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie, never fear. Full disclosure, I have not seen the movie and went in with a beginner’s mind. It is a thrill to be in the theater experiencing this tawdry spectacle for the first time. And even if you have seen the movie, there are plenty of tantalizing surprises throughout the show.
For those whose theatrical tastes lean more towards Sondheim, Lloyd-Webber or Manuel-Miranda, “Beetlejuice” might not have the profundity of a “Sunday in the Park with George,” but it’s a fireball of a show, filled with nods to the classics. As Mr. Juice says at least twice in the show, “This ain’t ‘Brigadoon.’”
Receiving 8 Tony Award nominations (including Best Musical) “Beetlejuice” became a hit thanks to word of mouth. It’s easy to see why the show is so beloved. The book by Scott Brown & Anthony King is clever with a score by Eddie Perfect, a cross between “Rocky Horror” and “The Addams Family.”
Britney Coleman and Will Burton are an adorable duo as the recently departed couple with a guileless Rob and Laura Petrie vibe. The entire cast is superb, from Jesse Sharp as Lydia’s father and his “life coach” Delia, a fabulously sexy Lexie Dorsett Sharp who filled in for Kate Marilley on opening night. Isabella Esler is a powerhouse as Lydia, making a strong professional debut.
It’s the ghost-with-the-most that dominates the stage. Justin Collete’s performance as Beetlejuice is a tour de force. He runs the gamut from charmingly bawdy to sexually debauched with ease, never breaking a sweat. He owns the role and the stage, making the part his own.
Thanks to Alex Timber’s inspired and rapid-paced direction, the production stays true to the movie’s feel, featuring astonishing visuals from lighting designer Kenneth Posner, a deliciously moody set design by David Korins and William Ivey Long’s pitch-perfect costumes. Connor Gallagher’s choreography is an exuberant delight.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Sandworm spectacle. The Sandworm is a character all its own, not just a prop or a puppet.
If you’re in the mood for an evening of mesmerizing special effects and non-stop macabre merriment (and who isn’t these days?), “Beetlejuice” is the show for you. Don’t forget to wear your black and white stripes with a touch of green.
Now playing June 27-July 2 at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts/Walt Disney Theater.
For more information, please visit drphillipscenter.org