Hi, I'm Morgan! I'm a twenty-something theater critic and writer (which really just means I've been a Theater Kid my whole life but now I'm an adult) based somewhere between Baltimore and Washington DC. 

Hopefully, I can help you discover a new show or the next song that will be stuck in your head for weeks on end.

I've been a theater writer since 2016, and I'm so excited to share my passion for the arts with you! Happy reading!

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Me in front of the harbor that houses the Statue of Liberty in New York City

Review: "Beetlejuice:" It's Time To "Say The B Word"

As Beetlejuice haunts his way to the stage, this is one name you’re definitely going to want to say.

Based on Tim Burton’s 1988 iconic movie of the same name, director Alex Timbers’ “Beetlejuice” (The musical. The musical. The musical.) is a Halloween music video, magic show, quick change act, rock concert and musical rolled into one. This “show about death” may be the only time it’s ok to sing, dance and make gut-bustingly hilarious jokes about being dead without crossing the line into uncomfortable and disrespectful.

While the musical holds promise of generating a cult following of its own, it does have several plot differences from the original film. The musical follows the story of the angsty and depressed teenage Lydia (Sophia Anne Caruso) as she mourns her mother’s death (perhaps the most obvious stray from the original plot of the film), much to the dismay of her perky, new, fairy-princess-of-a-life-coach Delia (Leslie Kritzer). When Lydia’s business tycoon father Charles (Adam Dannheisser) moves them into a new house, she accuses him of forgetting her mother and desperately looks for excuses not to leave the house that holds her mother’s memory. While brooding away in the attic, Lydia is drawn to the ghosts of Adam (Rob McClure) and Barbara (Broadway superstar Kerry Butler) Maitland, the house’s previous owners.

Leslie Kritzer and Adam Dannheisser (Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy)

A demon straight from the depths of Hell, Beetlejuice (Alex Brightman) is a like ghoulish version of Rumpelstiltskin, only with darker powers and a more maniacal gleam in his eyes. As a creature only visible to the dead, he is desperate to become a real person and terrorize the world of the living. Staring as the title character, Brightman is force to be reckoned with. Thrust front and center, he approaches the role with a new sort of rapid fire energy and fiendish approach that is echoed with the plot's breathless pace, crass humor and sleazy jokes.

Alex Brightman (Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy)

With his scratchy voice, powder white face and horrendous striped suit, Beetlejuice is the character musical theater so desperately needs. Brightman manages to find a perfect mix of screechy demon notes and smooth musical theater elegance, proving his talent and range as he steals the show. As he convinces Lydia they can help each other out, Stranger Danger goes out the window. A flashy musical number with a singing and dancing homicidal maniac with green hair ensues as she agrees to a plan that would possess her father and force him to do her bidding.

Serving as a stark contrast and element of comic relief, Barbara and Adam are an innocent, doe-eyed couple whose scariest ghost tactics are a few well-timed “golly’s!” and “gee whiz’s!” McClure and Butler are a perfect match, with just the right amount of awkward and geek as Butler hilariously becomes a housewife version of Snow White, so drastically different from Beetlejuice with his rotting teeth and electrified, multicolored hair.

Sophia Anne Caruso, Rob McClure, Kerry Butler (Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy)

When analyzed on their own without any of the spectacular special effects, brilliant sets and upbeat tempos, the songs in the show are really quite frightening. Dreary, mismatched lyrics are intertwined with lyrics that would normally warrant a call to the police. And yet, Eddie Perfect’s score has somehow managed to not only make them social acceptable, but wildly funny with the perfect amount of subtly (or lack thereof). When sung by the gorgeously talented Caruso, the theater becomes a rock concert as she sings with a kind of power that rivals the greats of classic rock, showcasing her incredible range in her rock power ballad in Act II.

Sophia Anne Caruso (Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy)

Act II opens in true musical theater fashion with an over-the-top dance number, complete with a beautifully executed tap routine. It’s almost easy to forget they’re singing about monsters, possession, murder and sex.

While the second half of the show never misses a beat, it does begin to subtly address more serious subjects. Boy Inferno, the flame-print-wearing, harmonizing pop gods of an undead boy band, put Lydia on the path of self discovery and repairing her relationship with her father, all while proving their potential to be the next teenage heartthrobs.

As Lydia and her friends search for a way to defeat Beetlejuice and banish him to the Netherworld, they put a satirical spin on the MeToo movement and the culture of sexual harassment. Lydia sings about her very own “creepy old guy” in a song that is so wonderfully ridiculous, audiences are forced to realize it rings of truth.

This “show about death” could not have been brought to life without scenic designer David Korins, lighting designer Ken Posner, projection designer Peter Nigrini, puppet designer Michael Curry, special effects designer Jeremy Chernick, and illusions creator Michael Weber. Their use of lighting, projections, special effects and props turned the production into a clever, spooky-filled magic act as characters levitated, were possessed, and multiplied on stage.

Alex Brightman (Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy)

Deliciously raunchy and unapologetically (perhaps maybe a bit too much) sexual, it’s about time we had a show like this on Broadway. While movie purists might find themselves shocked at book writers Scott Brown and Anthony King's stray from Burton’s original vision, it is also full of elements that make theater so lovable. Although in need of a bit of refining (admittedly there are some moments of sensory overload) and fine-tuning before it hits the Broadway stage, Beetlejuice is also a step into the modern era, chock full of what has made recent musicals like “Waitress” and “School of Rock” so successful: dirty humor and modern pop culture jokes.

A horror movie, comedy show, musical and Las Vegas act rolled into one, “Beetlejuice” holds extreme promise as it prepares to make its Broadway debut. You’re definitely going to want to “say the B word.”

Beetlejuice will run at the National Theater in Washington DC through November 18 before premiering on Broadway.

Feature Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

Note: Content is my own, but originally appeared on The Writer's Bloc in 2018 and has since been updated for this platform.