It’s been more than 30 years since Beetlejuice, “the afterlife’s leading bio-exorcist,” creeped out the Maitlands and the Deetzes—and won over a host of viewers—as the title character in the cult-classic Tim Burton film. This year, Beetlejuice came back from the grave as a Broadway musical. Devotees of the 1988 flick won’t want to miss this stage production, which maintains the original’s raunchy tone and fast-paced humor while peppering in contemporary references and fun musical numbers. But the show also holds surprises for both longtime fans and Netherworld newbies. Read on to find out seven ways Beetlejuice the musical brings new life to our favorite dark comedy about being dead.
Meet the Maitlands
The original Maitlands, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, are a hard act to follow. Showgoers will be surprised to see the new, more naïve Maitlands, played by Kerry Butler and Rob McClure, enter the afterlife a bit differently than their movie counterparts. As in the movie, the late couple teams up with Lydia Deetz, the teen who moves into their house and is the lone living person who can see them. The show, however, dives deeper into their relationship with each other and with Beetlejuice as he gives them a hand haunting their house—with his own ulterior motives, of course.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
One of the musical’s most effective elements is its Tony-nominated set design by David Korins. The set’s evolution reflects the power struggle in the Maitlands' house, gradually transforming as the Deetzes commandeer it and then as Beetlejuice becomes more and more at home. While in the movie the Maitlands return from the Netherworld to find their house redecorated all at once, the show invites viewers to keep an eye out for subtle changes—down to the light fixtures and fireplace—as the story progresses.
Enter the Netherworld
Lydia’s trip to the Netherworld in the show’s second act makes for another thrilling set transition—and a notable departure from the movie. The Tim Burton version follows the Maitlands into the quirky waiting room of the Netherworld at an earlier stage—before they meet Beetlejuice—as they struggle to understand the afterlife. In the Broadway version, the set turns into a mazelike underworld—and stay tuned for a musical number featuring many fan-favorite undead characters from the movie.
Watch Out for Sandworms
The special effects in Beetlejuice reflect the movie’s unabashed silliness and its 1988 release date. Needless to say, the Broadway production successfully modernizes those fantastical elements and sight gags. The movie’s stop-motion sandworms, for example, have morphed into detailed, lifelike creatures in the musical, thanks to designs by puppet master Michael Curry. You’ll also see flying characters, spontaneous combustion and possessed shrimp cocktails that will have you asking, “How’d they do that?”
Winona Ryder left some big Doc Martens to fill after her iconic, brooding performance in Beetlejuice, but Sophia Anne Caruso rises (levitates?) to the occasion playing the Broadway version of Lydia. This Lydia’s still got the Hot Topic–inspired wardrobe and angsty attitude, but the show more explicitly connects Lydia’s malaise to the loss of her mother. The show opens with the funeral and follows Lydia’s struggle with grief and her attempts to reunite with her mom in the Netherworld. Of course, she teams up with bad-news Beetlejuice and belts out some emotional power ballads along the way.
All Aboard the Banana Boat
Good news for fans of the original: the “Banana Boat” scene is just as uproarious on stage, with more special effects (like a mid-song costume change) and more excuses to start dancing in your seat (just take a cue from the twirling skeletons.) In the movie, the Deetzes decide to market their new home as a haunted house after being possessed in this scene; but the show, thanks to Beetlejuice’s interference, takes them in a new direction.
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice
Expect to see much more of the main man in the Broadway version of Beetlejuice (in the movie you won’t meet him until roughly halfway through the runtime). The new Beetlejuice is a devilish puck who both drives the action and narrates it, never missing a chance to crack jokes directly to the audience. No one is about to forget Michael Keaton’s title-character turn, but Alex Brightman’s Tony-nominated performance yields a more lovable and misunderstood—and no less hilarious—version of the undead con artist, striped suit and all.
Beetlejuice is running at the Winter Garden Theatre through June 6, 2020.