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The Crazy Amazing World of the Dearly Departed Rocks the National Theatre in Beetlejuice

The Crazy Amazing World of the Dearly Departed Rocks the National Theatre in Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice – The Musical
Broadway at the National
National Theatre
Jordan Wright
May 17, 2023
Special to The Zebra

(Photo /Matthew Murphy, 2022)

Confession 1.0: I had never seen the 1988 Academy Award-winning Tim Burton movie, Beetlejuice, nor TV series based on it.  Call me a Beetlejuice virgin.

Backstory: After a brief tryout here at the National Theatre in 2018, Beetlejuice headed to Broadway and the famed Winter Garden Theatre in 2019. The show had less than a year’s run before the pandemic hit shutting down all productions in early 2020. Nominated for eight Tony Awards in nearly every category and garnering a win for “Outstanding Set Design”, it proved to be a huge success. Luckily for us it’s back in town and killin’ it on its first national tour. All that goes to say that the audience, some garbed in the black-and-white stripes favored by Beetlejuice, consisted of legions of fans of the quirky-cool story and its rock concert vibe.

Reality: It’s a show about death and the newly dead – in the best possible way, I promise – with an utterly irreverent script, electrifying rock music and hilarious lyrics fronted by a tremendously talented cast of singers and dancers, a blazing rock band and dazzling light show. Be prepared to embrace the far side. Can you love the living dead? They’ll prove you can and will.

(Photo /Matthew Murphy, 2022)

The cast in this show is wonderful. From lead demon, Beetlejuice, played to the hilt and heavy on vaudevillian schtick by veteran improv comedian and rock singer, Justin Collette, to the breathtaking vocals of newcomer Isabella Esler who plays young Lydia, the Goth-garbed daughter grieving the untimely death of her mother. Esler has a stunning powerhouse voice tempered by an adorable sweetness that left me and my plus-one wide-eyed in its wake. Chills and thrills.

Picture a young couple, Barbara (Britney Coleman) and Adam (Will Burton) living in a decaying Victorian house longing for a child yet consumed with their individual hobbies. In an unfortunate incident in the dark of night they accidently electrocute themselves and are banished to the netherworld. Beetlejuice, who is “dying” to return amongst the living, needs someone to say his name three times. He cajoles the couple into haunting their old house, so he can con the new homeowners. To accomplish his nefarious ends, the slippery, double-crossing, gravelly-voiced specter unleashes a crazy amazing world of pandemonium filled with dancing skeletons and singing zombies. Enter Delia (the delightful, scene-stealing Kate Marilley), a guru-loving seductress accompanied by her business-obsessed lover and father of Lydia, Charles (Jesse Sharp), who buy the now-haunted house where Barbara and Adam are merrily ensconced in the attic reading “The Handbook for the Recently Deceased” and preparing to pounce on the unsuspecting trio with ghoulish abandon.

(Photo /Matthew Murphy, 2022)

Truly one of the funniest, most energetic, wonderfully choreographed shows – high praise for the endearingly creepy characters – this reviewer has ever seen. Schtick rules! A huge cast propelled by a kick-ass band and rock star voices send this musical beyond the beyond. If I published all the bios of cast and crew, you would have a star-studded list of some of the best-known Broadway performers and designers, most notably Director Alex Timbers (Moulin Rouge!); Original Score by Eddie Perfect (King Kong); with Book by Scott Brown (Castle Rock) and Anthony King (Robbie); Choreography by Connor Gallagher (The Robber Bridegroom); David Korins (Scenic Designer on Hamilton); Six-time Tony Award-winning Costume Designer William Ivey Long; Tony Award winner Kenneth Posner (Kinky Boots); with Sound Design by Peter Hylenski (Moulin Rouge!); the fabulous projection design of Peter Nigrini (Dear Evan Hansen); Puppet Design by Michael Curry (The Lion King); and Special Effects Design by Jeremy Chernick (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)… to name but a handful of the extraordinary creative team.

With Abe Goldfarb as Priest/Otho/Census Taker; Danielle Marie Gonzalez as Miss Argentina; Jackera Davis as Girl Scout; and the indelible Kris Roberts as Juno; plus a 13-person ensemble and 11-person orchestra with searing synthesizers.

Drop dead fabulous! Grab your tickets while you can!

(Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022)

Through May 28th at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004. For tickets and information call the box office at 202 628-6161 or visit  (The show is recommended for 10+ due to mature references and strong language and as the press release says, “a lot of crazy, inappropriate stuff you would expect from a deranged demon.”)

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