Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham

National Tour
Review by Garrett Southerland

Isabella Esler and Justin Collette
Photo by Matthew Murphy
"It's a show about death." The musical stage adaptation of the hit Tim Burton film Beetlejuice, currently on tour at the Durham Performing Arts Center, does not shy away from its subject matter, as stated in the opening number by the ghost with the most himself. Having just recently wrapped up a popular run on Broadway, this musical is touching, humorous, and creatively absurd throughout. Though the book by Scott Brown and Anthony King pulls a lot from the original story by Michael McDowell and Larry Wilson, it is uniquely its own and is just as highly entertaining as the film version.

Beetlejuice (a hilarious Justin Collette), a lonely and banished ghost in between worlds, hopes to be resurrected by getting a living person to say his name three times. If he succeeds, he can bring his special brand of chaos to everyone he comes across. He first encounters a recently deceased couple, Adam and Barbara Maitland (humorously portrayed by Will Burton and Juliane Godfrey at the performance I attended). They are also in between worlds (thanks to Beetlejuice's meddling), stuck in their former home that is newly occupied by father and daughter Charles and Lydia Deetz along with Lydia's life coach Delia (Jesse Sharp, Isabella Esler, and Kate Marilley respectively). Lydia is still mourning the death of her mother and is upset that her father seems to have moved on. When the Maitlands don't live up to Beetlejuice's expectations, he turns to Lydia to say his name and bring him into the living world.

Justin Collette's portrayal of Beetlejuice is pitch perfect. He embraces the rude and brash humor with ease and is an instant crowd pleaser. As Lydia Deetz, Isabella Esler is making her professional debut, and what a debut it is. She is a fantastic find for the stage with vocal cords that can match any seasoned veteran. Her rendition of the song "Dead Mom" is a true delight. One of the most drastic changes to the original story is the shift to Delia Deetz being a life coach and not Lydia's stepmother as she is in the film, originally portrayed by famed comedian Catherine O'Hara. Nonetheless, Kate Marilley's portrayal of the ditzy Delia is a joy. She even seems to call upon the spirit of Moira Rose of "Schitt's Creek" (another character portrayed by O'Hara) with some of her vocal inflections.

The staging is magically crafted by Alex Timbers, known for bringing spectacle to his works such as the Tony-winning Moulin Rouge and the upcoming Broadway production of the Imelda Marcos musical Here Lies Love this summer. This production is a loving homage to the film but also distinctly its own, with beautiful work by scenic design David Korins and costumes by William Ivey Long. Kenneth Posner's lighting is the standout of the creative team, with hints of green and purple (Beetlejuice's signature colors) throughout. Peter Nigrini's projection design had a rocky start at the performance I attended but add a greatly to the overall aesthetic once it was fixed during intermission. The show has impressive special effects and puppetry by Jeremy Chernick and Michael Curry that translate some of the zany characters and creatures of Tim Burton's original vision to stage. Special mention must also be made of Joe Dulude II's make-up design, which is crucial for bringing the dead to life.

Beetlejuice is a fun and, at times, vulgar romp. Parents should be advised that there is some content that might be questionable for youth of a certain age. There is strong language, sexual innuendo, and imagery that may be scary or intense for some. If you are already a fan of the movie, though, you will definitely enjoy this adaptation.

Beetlejuice runs through April 16, 2023, presented by Truist Broadway at Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St. Durham NC. For tickets and information, please visit,, or the Ticket Center at DPAC in person, or call 919-680-2787. For more information on the tour, visit

Music and lyrics: Eddie Perfect
Book: Scott Brown and Anthony King
Director: Alex Timbers
Choreographer: Connor Gallagher
Musical Supervisor, Orchestrator, and Incidental Music: Kris Kukul
Scenic Design: David Korins
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Sound Design: Peter Hylenski
Projection Design: Peter Nigrini
Puppet Design: Michael Curry
Special Effects Design: Jeremy Chernick
Illusions: Michael Weber
Hair and Wig Design: Charles Lapointe
Make-Up Design: Joe Dulude II

Beetlejuice: Justin Collette
Lydia: Isabella Esler
Barbara: Juliane Godfrey
Adam: Will Burton
Charles: Jesse Sharp
Delia: Kate Marilley
Miss Argentina: Danielle Marie Gonzalez
Otho: Abe Goldfarb Maxine Dean/Juno: Lexie Dorsett Sharp
Maxie Dean: Matthew Michael Janisse
Girl Scout: Jackera Davis
Ensemble: Michael Biren, Ryan Breslin, Juliane Godfrey, Morgan Harrison, Matthew Michael Janisse, Kenway Hon Wai K. Kua, Sean McManus, Lee N. Price, Nevada Riley, Trevor Michael Schmidt, Lexie Dorsett Sharp, Graham Stevens, Corben Williams