Beetlejuice: A Brief History

Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beeeeeecause it closed on Broadway on January 8th, 2023, let’s talk about Beetlejuice the Musical and its far-from-normal Broadway run. Based on the 1988 movie of the same name directed by Tim Burton, Beetlejuice had a wild ride on Broadway; Previews for the show began on March 28th, 2019, and it officially opened on April 25th, 2019. Initial reviews for the show weren’t exactly singing its praises. A New York Times article from April 25th, 2019 – opening night – called it “exhausting,” “a frantic adaptation” that overcompensated for fear of losing the short attention-spanned audience. This reviewer lets you know that “Beetlejuice” is a lot. There are big lights, sets, effects, songs, dancing, and big … well, everything! Alex Brightman’s performance as Beetlejuice is high energy right out of the gate – and you think he can’t possibly keep this energy up the whole show – and then he does. Another reviewer says the show was, to be simply put, a letdown. Which is reasonable considering the cult following the source material has. He says that the thing missing from the show is Tim Burton. “Beetlejuice” certainly has moments that have a glimmer of Burton, but it missed the mark on some great opportunities to draw from the movie. It is the source material, after all. Poor reception to the show left “Beetlejuice” looking like a Broadway flop (a very expensive one). However, after an electrifying and creative mashup performance at the 2019 Tony Awards, “Beetlejuice” wasn’t completely dead yet. The show found its second wind through the power of the internet… specifically teenagers on TikTok. The song “Say My Name,” in which Beetlejuice tries to convince Lydia to say his name so he can become his full-fledged demon self, went viral on TikTok. The virality of just one song spun the whole musical to the center of the Great White Way’s proverbial stage. “Beetlejuice” was as popular as ever when on October 1st, 2019, the Shubert Organization (Broadway’s biggest landlord) issued the show a formal notice that “Beetlejuice” was being evicted from the Winter Garden Theatre, making their final show June 6th, 2019. The reason? Hugh Jackman. Well, okay, not Hugh Jackman specifically, but “The Music Man,” starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, was moving into the Winter Garden and beginning previews on September 9th, 2020. It was no secret that Scott Rudin – one of the most potent producers on Broadway – wanted the Winter Garden. The Shubert-owned theatre is a hot commodity on Broadway. It’s hosted many infamous Broadway shows, including “West Side Story” (1957), “Once Upon A Mattress” (1960), “Funny Girl” (1964), “Mame” (1966), “Follies” (1971), “Gypsy” (1974), “Pacific Overtures”‘ (1976), “Fiddler on the Roof” (1976), “Camelot” (1981), “Cats” (1982), “Mamma Mia!” (2001), and “School of Rock” (2015). Naturally, Shubert wanted “The Music Man.” Hugh Jackman is a huge name and guarantees the theatre’s money. However, Beetlejuice had significant fluctuations in revenue, going through various dips in ticket sales throughout its run. So when the announcement came out that Beetlejuice was closing, the internet mania that gave it a second wind tried everything to help it stay put. Unfortunately, their efforts would not convince the Shubert Organization, and “Beetlejuice” closed on June 6th, 2020, along with all the shows closing due to COVID-19. Many asked, “Why can’t they just move to a new theatre?” In the 50s-70s, Broadway shows moved around frequently. However, technology – and thus, theatre – has advanced, and the technological aspects of a show take much more time and effort to move around. “Beetlejuice” is such a tech-heavy show that moving takes an insane amount of effort, not to mention they need a theatre that can support a show of that size. As shows started returning to Broadway in 2021, “Beetlejuice’s” internet following pushed harder and harder for it to return. Finally, after much campaigning, it was announced that “Beetlejuice” would reopen at the Marquis Theatre on April 8th, 2022. It had a successful run, with many original cast members returning to reprise their roles. But alas, all good things must eventually come to an end. And along with several other Broadway shows, “Beetlejuice,” the musical closed its curtains for the last time on January 8th, 2023. But fear not! If you didn’t get to see “Beetlejuice” while it was on Broadway, you could see it on tour! The tour started in December 2022, with dates set to October 2023. Despite its tumultuous runs on Broadway, “Beetlejuice” managed to withstand criticism, eviction, and a pandemic, to cement itself as a tremendous contemporary musical with as great a cult following as the movie it takes inspiration from.