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.”)

SIX: The Musical

SIX: The Musical

Broadway at The National
Jordan Wright
July 20, 2022
Special to The Zebra

The North American Tour Aragon Company of SIX. (Photo/Joan Marcus)

Six Tudor “roses” burst onto the stage with such fire and ferocity the audience breaks into cheers. From the opening number the cast of queens holds the audience in their thrall. Backed by a sizzling hot, three-piece band, the ex-wives of Henry the VIII seductively invite us to respond to their shout-outs to the crowd as they recount tales of their spousal experiences – divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. It’s a quirky mnemonic learned by British schoolchildren to recall the fates of all six wives.

Olivia Donalson as Anna of Cleves (center) (Photo/Joan Marcus)

It seems a quantum leap to take that device and turn it into a pop slash hip-hop slash rap musical, but it is what it is and as such it becomes the vehicle for female empowerment. Based on their individual experiences, they regale us with the cruelties and vagaries of a notorious king.  But, as we all know, payback’s a bitch. Suffice it to say the from the get-go the audience is in on the fun… and what fun this crazy, amazing show is!

Here’s what I wasn’t expecting. SIX The Musical is a pop music concert – a flashy, splashy, glam and glitzy, rap concert with nine memorable numbers that toggle back and forth betwixt the wives’ accounts of what they suffered under the king’s edicts. Laid out as a contest for the audience to offer a final vote on which of the ladies suffered the worst injustices and penultimate punishments, they each make their case in a mix of street-smart jargon and Valley Girl slang. It’s “herstory” against “his-story” and now’s their chance to come back from the grave with a royal vengeance to weigh in. Breaking the fourth wall to appeal to the audience, the Queens settle their scores with song and dance while vying to win our vote. As these divas say, they have “the riffs to ruffle your ruffs”.

The Aragon Company of SIX. (Photo/Joan Marcus)

In sequential order we hear from Catherine of Aragon (Khaila Wilcoxon) who channels Beyoncé and Shakira in “No Way” to Anne Boleyn (Storm Lever) whose inspiration is Lily Allen and Avril Lavigne in “Don’t Lose Ur Head” to Jane Seymour (Jasmine Forsberg) in “Heart of Stone” who is inspired by Adele and Sia to rap/sing her story, to fourth wife Anna of Cleves (Olivia Donalson) in “Get Down” whose “Queenspirations” are Nicki Minaj and Rihanna to Katherine Howard (Didi Romero) with “All You Wanna Do” who nails a combination of Ariana Grande and Britney Spears, and lastly, survivor Catherine Parr (Gabriela Carrillo) with the killer ballad “I Don’t Need Your Love” and whose avatars are Alicia Keys and Emeli Sandé.

Didi Romero as Katherine Howard (center) (Photo/Joan Marcus)

With book, music and lyrics by Tony Marlow and Lucy Moss and directed by Lucy Moss, SIX has garnered a total of 23 awards including the Tony Award for Best Original Score (Music and Lyrics) and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and the show’s album has reached stratospheric streaming heights in its first month.

Originally performed in England by the Cambridge Musical Theatre Society, the costumes are sensational, the lighting is laser-sharp and the onstage band is on point. And although I thought I heard shades of Madonna in the Catherine of Aragon character and Lizzo in Donalson’s portrayal of Anne of Cleves, you will no doubt detect the vocal stylings of some of your own favorite pop stars.

Choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, Scenic Design by Emma Bailey, Costume Design by Gabriella Slade, Lighting Design by Tim Deiling, Sound Design by Paul Gatehouse and Orchestrations by Tom Curran.

Highly recommended!!!

Through September 4th at National Theatre DC, 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20004. For tickets and information visit or call the box office at 202 628-6161.