Nostalgia, inventiveness, and a certain lively focus on death: all of these are at the heart of Beetlejuice, playing this week at Broadway San Diego’s Civic Theatre.
An adaptation of the beloved feature film, the musical version of Beetlejuice likewise introduces the audience to Adam and Barbara Maitland, a newly deceased couple, Lydia Deetz, a teenager who has just lost her mother, and Beetlejuice, a decaying spirit who seeks a new lease in the form of a fresh, living body, alongside a host of other characters.Though the strangely morbid Lydia is really beseeching her dead mom to guide her from the beyond, instead Beetlejuice and the Maitlands take the initiative. One thing leads to another, there’s some possession, a giant sandworm, and avant garde art comes to life. Prepare for edgy, because Beetlejuice doesn’t pull any of its punches.
The show is delightfully led by newcomer Isabella Esler as Lydia, a star in her professional debut. Esler has a unique timbre to her voice that makes her songs plaintive and stirring. Opposite the lonely teen is the raunchy, disgusting Beetlejuice, split by Andrew Kober (who I saw) and Adam Justin Collette. This role, which launches the show by breaking the fourth wall and berating and mocking the audience, is unfailingly offensive and, in its unscrupulous approach, devastatingly and inappropriately entertaining.
These performers are joined by Britney Coleman and Will Burton as the endearing, square young couple who are finding out who they are again after an electrocution accident disrupts their ten year plan, as well as Jesse Sharp (Charles), Katie Marilley (Delia), and a feisty ensemble which includes Michael Biren, Jackera Davis, Juliane Godfrey, Abe Goldfarb, Danielle Marie Gonzalez, Kenway Hon Wai K. Kua, Sean McManus, Lee N Price, Nevada Riley, Kris Roberts, Trevor Michael Schmidt, Brian Vaugn, and Corbin Williams.
Headed next to Tempe, Arizona, audiences can expect a fun show that differs in some ways from the original source material, but that still brings the zaniness in key places, including an act 2 opener featuring the ensemble dressed as Beetlejuice clones. Director Alex Timbers has managed, somehow, to hold together some major pieces from the original film, and to stage the Eddie Perfect score and Scott Brown and Anthony King book thoughtfully.
Lights, costumes, and set (Kenneth Posner, William Ivey Long, and David Korins) complement these components well and, likewise, choreographer Connor Gallagher has done a great job taking advantage of the talent in the cast.
Alas, with Hurricane Hilary encroaching on San Diego, Beetlejuice is being forced into an early close in America’s Finest City… but Tempe is close enough that any remaining enthusiasts still have time to make the short drive to catch the next venue before “Showtime!” if they want to.
Read the program.