DETROIT – Motown must have said his name three times because Beetlejuice has transformed the Detroit Opera House into the Netherworld.
From the moment you walk into the Opera House, the audience is immediately transported to the wacky world of Tim Burton. Eerie green and purple lights wander the theater, creepy circus music plays and a giant “Betelgeuse” marquee is lit up pointing to an ethereal green light with smoke poking out of the curtains.
And this is all before the show even starts.
With a flash of blinding lights, we find Lydia Deetz (Isabella Esler) mourning the loss of her mother at her funeral. Our narrator, the headlining poltergeist, appears seemingly out of nowhere to introduce the audience to “The Whole Being Dead Thing.” It’s here that we learn that this show is not going to be your typical Broadway song-and-tap show.
Beetlejuice is a wild ride with heart. Based on the 1988 Tim Burton classic starring Michael Keaton, the Broadway adaptation brings the story to life with clever songs, magic and special effects. From the lavish (and ever-changing) set of the Maitland house to the cast of recently deceased characters found in the Netherworld, the show is a fast-paced adventure with surprises around every corner.
The musical stays faithful to the original movie, Day-O included, but changes the focus from the Maitlands to Lydia in her search for “home” after her mother dies. Her loneliness mirrors Beetlejuice’s, which leads to the afterworld chaos that ensues.
Justin Collette stars as the ghost with the most. This fast-talking, voice-changing, fourth wall-breaking demon steals the show whenever he’s on stage, giving his all physically and vocally. Every joke that cracks out of Beetlejuice’s mouth lands to uproarious laughter and it’s clear that he’s listening to and working with the audience on this two-and-a-half-hour journey.
University of Michigan alums Britney Coleman and Will Burton star as Barbara and Adam Maitland, the recently deceased couple navigating the afterlife. The two Broadway vets, Coleman in the Tony Award-winning production of Company and Burton in Hello, Dolly!, bring the heart to the show, especially in their scenes together with Lydia.
Other standouts include Isabella Esler as Lydia, who at just 18-years-old is belting out the two most difficult rock ballads in the show eight times a week, and Kate Marilley, who gives a hilarious Moira Rose-esque character to Delia (who was fittingly played by Catherine O’Hara in the original movie).
David Korins’ set perfectly captures Tim Burton’s style to stage. The Maitland house is a character all its own, complete with costume changes. Each time the curtain rises to reveal the house, there’s new wallpaper, new fireplace and window designs. It’s pure theater magic.
Scott Brown and Anthony King’s book is clever and witty, without being overly vulgar. Kenneth Posner’s lighting design along with Peter Nigrini’s projection design elevates Korins’ already visually-stunning set, immersing audiences into both the real and after worlds. Eddie Perfect’s music services the show well but aren’t exactly the most memorable.
Beetlejuice is an out-of-this-world and over-the-top spectacle that pushes the boundaries of theater in the best way possible. While you might not be humming any of the songs once the show is over, you’ll leave smiling, feeling a sense of hope over a show about death. Underneath the crude jokes, the bright lights and special effects, there’s a touching story about finding home among tragedy.
Beetlejuice is playing now through Sunday, February 12 at the Detroit Opera House. For showtimes and tickets, visit BroadwayinDetroit.com.