Classic Beetlejuice It’s Not. Welcome to The Lydia Show.

The national tour of Broadway’s Beetlejuice the musical, based on the 1988 movie of the same name, is a hot ticket. Its sold-out Seattle run opened last night at the Paramount Theatre and runs through the weekend. 


It’s an iconic flick for Gen-Xers and Elder Millennials: the quirky comedy-horror-fantasy; the indelible shrunken-head scene; the swelling dramatic score by Danny Elfman alongside Tim Burton’s direction and kooky creepy characters, years before they’d debut The Nightmare Before Christmas. And then there’s the rather timeless cast: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Michael Keaton, Catherine O’Hara, and Wynona Ryder, all looking much younger but easily recognizable, many of them in breakout roles, 35 years back.   

Its title, meanwhile, is to be avoided, on pains of summoning cursed consequences, much like uttering Macbeth in the theatre. Betelgeuse, Beetlejuice, Be … Don’t say it three times fast, or things might get interesting. 

Well-timed with the upcoming release of the edgingly titled sequel Beetlejuice Beetlejuice (hitting movie theaters in September), the touring musical — which made its Broadway premiere in 2019 before the pandemic shutdowns and reopened in 2022 — is grabbing fans of the flick and reintroducing the wild-haired ghostly villain to new audiences.

So how does it hold up? 

I’m sad to say, those coming in with the Beetlejuice movie in mind will be disappointed. Beetlejuice the musical is spooky only in that it tells you so. It engages with the source material much like Mrs. Doubtfire the musical did with its own: retaining character outlines and plot arcs while stripping away the sense of desperation and personal stake (interspersed with the humor, of course) that made the story a compelling one; and replacing them with gimmicks throughout — including, bizarrely, a whole montage of lookalikes storming the stage (women deemed ugly in Doubtfire’s case; the “creepy old guy” with wild hair here). Other than a welcome appearance of the shrunken head guy at the end, we don’t get the comic futility of the afterlife, imagined as a special kind of DMV hell. Throughout, the classic’s deadpan humor and occasional unexpected barbs (“You can’t scare her, she’s sleeping with Prince Valium tonight”) have been replaced here with a witless comedy act designed to trigger a live laugh track at every punctuation point. 

‘Beetlejuice’ the musical, on tour now, includes a bizarre montage of the title character, reminiscent of a similar scene in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ the musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

And you know what? It did. Audience members loved it, hanging on every word, laughing at every antic, rowdily cheering every appearance from the iconic villain, who in this version was much more host, MC, and stand-up comedian than scary bad guy. (An exception, perhaps, is the creepy old guy song tacked on toward the end, in which Beetlejuice sings knowingly of his “underage bride.” Even that’s dispensed and dismissed offhand with schtick.) This audience was in his hand before they walked through the door, and Justin Collette in the title role kept them there throughout.  

The couples, meanwhile, fare worse. The Maitlands, played gamely by Will Burton and Megan McGinnis, are written without any sense of investment, a sharp contrast to Baldwin and Davis’ sweet duo of the film. Dad Charles Deetz (Jesse Sharp) has no personality at all up ’til the final scenes. His new interest-slash-employee Delia (Sarah Litzsinger) is given the unfortunate role of most annoying person on the planet, a terrible reenvisioning of O’Hara’s amped-up conceptual artist character now as a total airhead. 

What we do get, though, is a definitive hero in Lydia Deetz. Less a Maitlands’ journey, Beetlejuice the musical is all about Lydia: holding her own, challenging the rules, grieving as she needs to, finding her way with her family old and new.

For this teenage hero on the rise, they’ve found a stellar match in recent high school grad Isabella Esler, whose performance absolutely dominated. Esler makes it look fluid and easy. In this show, Lydia gets, and Esler gives, a mighty voice. It’s doubly-triply impressive in this, her professional debut. Beetlejuice the movie had an (eventual) all-star lineup of actors with breakout performances who became household names. In Beetlejuice the musical, this could well be Esler’s. 

Original film-like, this musical is not. But with a stellar performance by Esler, an affable host in Collete, a solid ensemble, and a stage design that dazzled (save for the pointlessly aggressive strobes in the second act), Beetlejuice the musical is a fun show. Just don’t Boebert it.


‘Beetlejuice’ music and lyrics by Eddie Perfect, book by Scott Brown and Anthony King, based on the Geffen Company Picture with story by Michael McDowell and Larry Wilson. Directed by Alex Timbers. Musical supervision and orchestration by Kris Kukul. Choreographed by Connor Gallagher. Designed by David Korins (scenic), William Ivey Long (costumes), Kenneth Posner (lighting), Peter Hylenski (sound), Peter Nigrini (projections), Michael Curry (puppets), Jeremy Chernick (special effects), Michael Weber (magic and illusions), Charles G. LaPointe (hair and wigs), and Joe Dulude II (makeup). 

Beetlejuice runs through 4/7 at the Paramount Theatre, in Downtown Seattle. Tickets are sold out; show info and limited resale tickets (if available) here. Accessibility notes: main restrooms downstairs and upstairs are gendered and multi-stall, with gender-neutral, single-stall restroom on the main floor. Theatre and some common areas are wheelchair accessible. ASL-interpreted and audio-described performance at 4/7 matinee; open-captioned performance 4/7 evening.

Run time: 2 hours 30 minutes, with intermission.

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of