The Tony Awards race is upon us. On Thursday night we got to see a major contender for Best Musical as “Beetlejuice,” based on the movie more or less, opened to a sold out show at the Winter Garden. The line to get into the cavernous Broadway house was literally wrapped around the block. Among those in the audience was Irving Burgee, the 95 year old writer of the song “Day O,” now part of an insanely fabulous first act closer. He came on a walker with two aides and gave a thumbs up to the show.
I can’t review “Beetlejuice” until it opens next month, but let me tell you: wow. With a little tinkering (still too long) what I saw last night would be a Tony winning musical. Star Alex Brightman is whirling dervish, a spinning top, and looks born to play the role Michael Keaton created in the Tim Burton film. He’s just breathtaking. So is Leslie Kritzer, in a new role that will bring her Best Supporting Actress accolades. Sophia Ann Caruso is dynamite as Lydia, the Winona Ryder character.
The whole production comes from Alex Timbers, who’s a genius, and who is dedicating the magnificent work he’s done here to the memory of the late great actress Carole Shelley. Most of these movies turned into musicals are just adapted straight on, and they dont work. But book writers Scott Brown and Anthony King pulled this sucker apart and re-invented “Beetlejuice” with new characters, subplots, and reason for Lydia to be obsessed with death and so sullen, apart from just being a Goth teenager. Their script is ribald, for sure, and very ‘out there’, but it works. I was very impressed by them.
William Ivey Long is working at his top level as costume designer, and all the production people have hit home runs, particularly Kenneth Posner’s lighting.
Cuts still must be made to “Beetlejuice” to quicken the first act, but the producers should be very happy. So we can add this show to the list with “The Prom” and “Ain’t Too Proud.” Still unknown is “Tootsie”– they’re next. But now we’ve got a promising season, a solid Tony show with musicals that are joyous and smart. You can’t beat that.
Performances I do hope Tony voters will recall: Janet McTeer in “Bernardt/Hamlet” and Elaine May in “Waverly Gallery.”
Lots more to come as we head for the April 25th eligibility cut off.