In the age of remastering films for the Broadway stage, Tim Burton’s 1988 cult classic ‘Beetlejuice’ will be the next to tread the boards! Performances of the new musical will start Sunday night in Washington, D.C., and will then transfer to Broadway next spring. Now, we have a first look at the titular ghost with the most, played by Tony nominee Alex Brightman (‘School of Rock’)!
The kooky musical is directed by Alex Timbers (‘Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’). Timbers gave an interview and revealed that the creative team went through several wig, makeup, and costume tests. Some resembled Michael Keaton’s version of the character from the film, while others went “in the complete opposite direction.” They finally landed on Brightman’s “younger, punkier” version. Timbers said:
“One of the things I love about Alex is, not only is he a great theater performer, but he’s also a writer, so he brings a sensibility that can stand outside the performance. [His Beetlejuice] is definitely not a Michael Keaton impression. It’s his own. It’s filtered through the sensibility of Alex Brightman.”
‘Beetlejuice’ tells the story of a home being shared by two very different families, the recently deceased Maitlands and the very much alive Deetzes, and the titular ghost who happily wreaks havoc on all of them. One difference between the film and the stage version, Timbers explains, is that the character of Lydia Deetz, played by Winona Ryder in the film, and on stage by Sophia Anne Caruso, will be the center of the story. Timbers said:
“Refocusing the story on Lydia’s emotional journey, Lydia’s relationship to Beetlejuice — who were [both] more like secondary characters in the film — felt like a great way in. Beetlejuice and Lydia are both trickster figures, in a way. Certainly Beetlejuice is, but musical theater has a great history of con men as characters when you think about Bialystock and Bloom or Harold Hill in The Music Man, so it felt to me that the DNA of those two characters felt like great musical theater protagonists in the way they work off each other.”
Timbers explains that the character of Beetlejuice is one that could really come to life onstage, saying:
“He’s one of those characters in film that that you can imagine breaking the fourth wall, and I think in theater, you want these characters that vibrate with life and can kick over the footlights and land in your lap. That’s Beetlejuice. He can directly address the audience. He can be an unreliable narrator. He can be a Loki figure, you know? He can be a god of chaos, and that’s really exciting.”
The musical features an original score by Eddie Perfect (‘King Kong’) and a book by Scott Brown and Anthony King and will fully embrace the foundation laid by Burton. The original artwork and sketches from the film were a source of inspiration for Timbers and the creative team throughout the design process. But, Timbers will also put his own flair into the musical. He explained:
“The dinner party scene is in the show, but where it exists and how it functions and how the music functions is surprising. So there are Easter eggs from the film, and what I want to do is pass the sniff test for fans, but I want it to feel like its own surprising, exciting piece of theater.”
While the show features many supernatural elements, Timbers still sees it as a family story, saying:
“We’re embracing the spirit of dark whimsy, but at the center of it, it’s a family drama, right?”
Furthermore, while the overall story of ‘Beetlejuice’ is one of whimsy and comedy, it also touches on a few serious themes about life and death. Timbers explains:
“The show deals with loss and grief and what it means to be dead and what it means to be alive, and what makes life worth living — the big, important questions.”
‘Beetlejuice’ is now in previews at Washington’s National Theatre and will open on November 4. It then moves to Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre in March before officially opening on April 25!