“Beetlejuice” at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

Justin Collette (Beetlejuice) at Tour Company of “Beetlejuice.” Photo by Michael Murphy 2022.

A visual spectacle of elaborate lighting and effects matched with superb talent and absurd comedy, Beetlejuice opened at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre last evening. Whether or not you are a fan of the original movie, you’re in luck: Beetlejuice the musical is so much better. It brings all the best parts of the cult-classic film while also giving the story a much-needed update and adding adult humor that will have you laughing hysterically. Beetlejuice tells the story of Lydia Deets (Isabella Esler) who is a grief-stricken teen enamored by all that is strange and unusual. A couple months after the death of her mom, Lydia and her father (Jesse Sharp) move into a house that was recently vacated by couple Barbara (Britney Coleman) and Adam (Will Burton) after an unfortunate electrical accident. After being plunged into the afterlife, Barbara and Adam seek guidance from a demon named Beetlejuice (typically Justin Collette but portrayed on opening night by Matthew Michael Janisse) to get their house back and scare out the new owners. When it’s discovered that Lydia can see these ghost inhabitants while no one else can, we are taken on a whirlwind of an adventure involving the Netherworld, possession, underage marriage, and so much more!

First off, I was very surprised to see so many kids in the audience. This is definitely not a show for children and includes crude humor and language that is not for young ears. I thoroughly enjoyed how much this show pushed the enveloped and couldn’t stop laughing right from the second song, “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing”. Beetlejuice immediately breaks the 4th wall and addresses the audience directly to let us know this is show about death so we better come to terms with that quick. Janisse quickly became an audience favorite with his high energy, perfect comedic timing, and kooky portrayal of Beetlejuice. I have no idea how a person could continuously portray that role night after night and imagine it must take some serious caffeine. Isabella Esler truly blew me away as Lydia. A recent high school graduate (!!!), Esler has some insane power to her voice and continued to really belt it out for the entire length of the show, one song after another. Kate Marilley as life coach Delia reminded me of Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek in her accent and mannerisms. Burton and Coleman have excellent stage chemistry as Adam and Barbara and are such a perfect contrast in character to Beetlejuice. 

One of my favorite numbers in the show has to be “Creepy Old Guy”. In the original film, Beetlejuice needs Lydia to marry him so he can be alive again (literally). The character of Lydia is estimated to be around 14-16 years old while Beetlejuice is…..well…. a creepy old guy in comparison. This is kind of brushed over in the movie and not really deemed to be too strange or gross. However, I love that the musical in contrast really leaned into the fact that the whole concept is so incredibly wrong and poked fun at itself. “Day-O” is obviously a showstopper, as well, and I’m so glad the musical recreated that classic scene from the movie so wonderfully. That song and “Jump in Line” are sure to be in your head as you leave the theatre!

The visuals in the show really appeal to the senses and are quite a spectacle to take in. There are many, many, many set changes as we bounce from scene to scene. However, they are all executed so quickly and seamlessly, it’s easy to overlook. Projections are creatively utilized over the scenery, curtains, and backdrop to really bring the stage to life in an interesting way. The large, angular arch that frames the stage acts as a huge lighting effect with different colors, flashing, and strobing throughout the show to achieve various desired effects. Fog is also used and even elements of fire in different forms of stage magic. Your senses are sure to be stimulated!

Overall, this show is incredibly entertaining and has such a fun atmosphere. It’s showing at Shea’s through the 26th and has a run time of 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Be…….tter get your tickets soon!

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