Thursday, October 3, 2019

Beetlejuice (Broadway)

♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Teenager Lydia Deetz (Sophia Anne Caruso) just can’t get over the death of her mother. She grieves and obsesses about death as much as she could. Her father Charles (Adam Dannheisser) hires life coach and his lover Delia (Leslie Kritzer) to help the girl move on. They also transfer to a new house for a change of environment, not knowing that it is the house of deceased couple Barbara (Kerry Buttler) and Adam Maitland (Rob McClure) who were just prepping up for family life when they met their sudden demise. Not willing to move on to the other side, the couple haunt the house, but are deemed not scary enough for the part. When Lydia sees the duo, she finds an opportunity to move back to their old home by conniving with the ghosts to scare her father and future stepmom, but it doesn’t work. Enter Beetlejuice (Alex Brightman), a demon who wants to be visible and will try everything to make it happen by finding an alive and kicking human being to say his name thrice. In the end, will it be Lydia?

Well that was a riot. I came to the theater without expectations and not knowing what this material was all about. I knew that there was a film but didn’t have an idea what the storyline was. I just saw a lot of black and white, which somehow made me relate the narrative to The Addams Family because of the same gothic look and feel. To settle things once and for all this is a story about death, grief, and finding life in such themes. That sounds rather ironic, yet the plot works that way at least. In any case, if you do watch Beetlejuice, do so for the humor.

And the acting. It’s only now that I discovered that Brightman originated the role of Dewey Finn in the Broadway rendition of School of Rock, which also ran at the Winter Garden Theater. I also saw that one, which explains why this theater looks so familiar. I guess it is safe to say that this theater is where the funny family-friendly comedies are staged? Back to Brightman, it was so obvious that he was having one heck of a good time, and most of his quips had the audience in stitches from so much laughter.

The brand of humor might not sit well with everyone though, given how it takes inspiration from so many topics, from timely political jabs to light insults directed towards the audience. It’s not the ROFL-type of comedy that you will expect from the likes of Book of Mormon, but it’s effective nonetheless based on the reaction from tonight’s audience. Kritzer also steals the show with her one-liners, poking fun at various things from kale salad to beauty pageantry in Latin America. It is this duo who always brings the house down.

Caruso, on the other hand, is all about being a musical theater prodigy. This girl can definitely sing, and all that while maintaining the rather eccentric quirks of her character, from accent all the way to pitch. As for Buttler and McClure, they do get their own moments in the spotlight but are easily overshadowed by the other cast members. Perhaps it’s also an issue of characterization? The Maitland couple seems to be there just to serve as a plot device to move the story forward.

The production design stays true to the material, exaggerated and over-the-top most of the time, but maximized to its full potential for your enjoyment. The songs are rather forgettable, though, to be honest, but the musical makes up for that in many ways through comedy and the strength of the performance of its actors. Over all, it is camp and fun, like a no holds barred B-Comedy/Horror film brought to life onstage.

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