There And Back Again, A Beetlejuice Tale

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I’m not much of a spontaneous person. I over-plan things like a fiend. And I stress. And I make lists. And I worry. I’m also not exactly rolling in the dough. With bills, a car payment, and a student loan, I can’t really save up for large things like vacations to Harry Potter world in Florida, to the beach, or to anywhere. Mostly because the savings ends up being used for something else. So I watch, slightly envious, as my friends go on these amazing vacations and post all the photos and tell the stories. I love hearing about them and I love when they message me from their vacations and adventures. But I’m always a little sad that I can’t do something like that myself.

And along comes a beetle. Well, a musical about Beetlejuice. I had been aware that it was currently happening and I knew that it was only recently starting on Broadway. But the cast album didn’t come out until June 7th. I listened to it about 4 days later and I admit that I listened with trepidation. I’m almost 39 and I grew up with the movie and then with the cartoon. I’m a giant Beetlejuice fan. (For those of you that know me, you know I have an unexplainable crush on this character.) So any new interpretation of it makes me hesitant. But I laughed…..a lot. And by the third listen I was pretty much loving it. I saw their song performance at the Tonys and wished I could go to New York to see the show. I even posted on Facebook about being okay if anyone wanted to take me with them to see it. My friend, Crispy, made a comment that he had even considered trying to take a day trip to see it and go back home the same day.

And I found myself thinking, “Is that really a thing? Can someone do that?”

“Could I do that?”

I’d never been to New York so of course I’d never seen a show on Broadway. And I’d never seen a show with its original cast…but I did have a credit card and I knew that monthly payments were within my ability to make. And I had several knitting commissions that could pay for it.

Beetlejuice the Musical

Beetlejuice the Musical

Add to this that both the Beetlejuice musical album and a few other things seem to be conspiring to remind me that life is short, we’re all going to die at some point, and I could die tomorrow having played it safe and tried to save to do something like this and never do it. Wouldn’t it be better to take trip and pay it off over time and have the experience and excitement of it in my memory? Is this a mid-life crisis? Did I care if it was?

Long story short….

I got a round trip plane ticket for July 13th. The show ticket was an early birthday gift. And it was a damn good one as it was second row almost center! And that was that.

When I told my internet friend of 20 years, Eden, that I was doing it, she got excited as she lives in NY. She bought the empty seat next to mine for the same show and said she’d meet me at the train station (because I planned to take the train from Newark airport to NY Penn station and then back after the show).

Now for the insanity of the actual day!

Remember when I said that I over-plan and stress? Part of that translates into needing to be at airports at least two hours before my flight. In this case, that meant I’d need to be there at 5:30 am for my 7:30 am flight (which would put me in Newark at 10:40-ish with time before the 2:00 pm showing of Beetlejuice). I woke up at 4:30 to shower and get dressed and saw an alert from United in my text messages.

Thanks to my flight crew getting in late, they needed more time for their mandated rest and my flight was now delayed an hour and a half, putting me into Newark at 12:36 pm.

Cue the panic.

The adrenaline hit hard as my brain rushed trying to figure out what to do, with the worst part of my brain screaming that I was going to miss the show. I managed to calm down and forced myself to go ahead and shower and dress first. That needed to happen. Then I called United and explained the situation. Because I was awake and planning to be at the airport so early anyway, they could swap me to a 6:45 am flight.

Paranoia sometimes pays off.

The flight itself was fine. I even managed to navigate myself to the Airtrain and then the NJ Transit train that I was hoping was going to the right place, NY Penn Station. Though I was packed in like a sardine, at least I was heading to the right place.

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Flying into Newark and I saw the Statue of Liberty!

Once at the station in NY, it took Eden a moment to find me. Still, we finally met in person after knowing each other online for about 20 years. Bonus, she wasn’t an ax murderer! Out plan was to walk from the station (at 34th and 7th) to the theatre (on 50th and Broadway) as it was a straight shot. We did stop for lunch at an awesome kosher deli and got to chat. She pointed out sights and stuff as we walked and we talked about all sorts of things.

 

We arrived at the theatre in plenty of time and managed to get several photos outside.

 

Then came the awesomeness of the show itself. I’ll save my thoughts for the end so that those who don’t want to be spoiled can avoid it!

After the show, I really wanted to stage door and hopefully shake a few hands and maybe even have my playbill signed. But it was already about 4:45 and I needed to be at the airport by 6:40 for my flight home. I knew the train ride itself would take about 30-40 minutes and the walk would also take a bit. So sadly, I had to be responsible and Eden and I headed back to NY Penn Station. Still, I had done it!

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Once there we said our goodbyes and she hopped a subway home.

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I managed to find the NJ Transit part of the station and had to ask when the next train to Newark would be leaving. That’s when the adventure continued.

I didn’t know at that time that the NJ Transit system has become a giant frakked up mess. Canceled trains right and left. Delays. You name it. But I found out that evening.

The first two trains that could have taken me to the right station in NJ had been canceled. The next was supposed to leave at 6:07. It was 5:21 at that point. But they didn’t know what track it would be departing from so I had to hang out in the main area, watching the screens. Then it was 6:07 and we still didn’t know. It and the next two trains (one of which would also be able to take me to the right station) were now on Standby with none of them having a track. At this point, there were so many people waiting for a NJ train, that you could barely move in the station. The 6:14 train was finally given a track number and I bolted for the door.

And by bolted I mean that I was swept along in the crowd of people who were so close to me that I’m I could feel them pressing on every side.

I’ve been to DragonCon. I’ve seen crowded. But even there, folks still provide at least the tiniest bit of personal space. Not here. If someone was into frottage, this would have been the place to be. At least I did get to experience one dude yelling at another “What the fuck, you fucking fuck!”. Ah, New York.

The train didn’t leave the station until around 6:35pm. When I should have been at the airport. And I didn’t know what the security lines would be like at Newark. But I had no choice. I was committed and packed onto this return train like a sardine. Again. Then at 6:43 our train stopped along the track just on the NJ side of the tunnel but not at a station. We sat there for about 7 minutes while we all wondered what was going on. Eventually we started moving and I took a breath, thinking I might be okay on time.

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At least I’m on a train even if we’re still sitting at the station.

I did make it to Newark airport finally and even made it to my gate with a bit to spare. Then my plane had a gate change and a delay. It was at that point that I found out that a blackout hit NY, right where I had just been. They estimate it started around 6:47 which makes me think that the blackout did had something to do with our stopped train at 6:43. Had I taken the later flight, been able to get on that particular train, or even tried to stage door for a little longer, I would have been caught at NY Penn station during the blackout and been unable to get back to the airport in time. Crazy!

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Finally at the gate at the airport!

My plane finally left after a couple more delays and, until we made it to Nashville, it was pretty uneventful. The event came when we had to circle a lightning storm and try to get under it. The plane was a tiny one, three seats across, and I swear from the way we were rattling and jolting, I thought we might actually shake apart. But we landed safely and I made it home, just about 17 hours after I had left that morning.

 

What a trip!

Now for my show review!

First, the set design was beyond amazing and blew me away. It was so wonderful and shifted perfectly with the show. I had no idea what I was getting into but it was perfect. Right down to BJ’s extra arms and legs during his reprise of “Invisible” and the giant Beetlejuice that seemed to reach to the top of the theatre and rose up out of the orchestra pit at the end of Act I. Oh, and the sandworms. Including the one he rode in on later in the show.

The music itself was fantastic. There were some pieces of music that were not on the album and I really wish they had been included. Kudos to the orchestra for being on point. Also, there were many musical cues that called back to the original movie score and I swear I even heard some from the cartoon. Every time I heard one, I couldn’t stop the smile.

Then there’s the cast. This was the reason I did this now. I wanted to see the cast I had been listening to, particularly Alex Brightman as Beetlejuice, perform the show. When we arrived at the theatre we did notice there was one understudy performing as Adam. (For the record, if you get the chance to see the show with Sean Montgomery, the u/s, as Adam, DO IT!) But the rest of the cast was the same.

And they rocked my world.

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I can’t speak enough praise of the ensemble. I wish I could watch it over and over just because each one of them was so unique and memorable. There was one particular gentleman, I think it was Ramone Owens (yep! confirmed with him on Instagram! Thanks!), who kept me cracking up during “That Beautiful Sound”. In it, he’s one of the many Beetlejuices that are all over the stage and has his arms ripped off during a gag. So he performs the rest of the dance and everything without arms. But that’s not what kept getting my attention. Every time all the Beetlejuices were focused on the actual Beetlejuice, he had the most maniacal grin on his face and his tongue was sticking out and swinging back and forth from corner to corner of that wide open mouth grin. Dude, that was fantastic and please don’t ever stop because it was perfect.

Kerry Butler and Sean as Barbara and Adam were charming and hilarious. I loved the characters even more after seeing their performance. All the tiny visual nuances made them….just more. Kelvin Moon Loh as Otho was definitely perfect! I wish there had been more of him! Adam Dannheisser as Charles Deetz was pretty darn impressive and I’m not sure how I managed to develop a slight crush on the character of Charles after that but I definitely blame his performance. And Leslie Kritzer as Delia. I swear that woman channeled some serious Catherine O’Hara in her acting and even the way she pronounced certain words. She also plays Miss Argentina and damn that woman can dance!

Sophia Ann Caruso plays Lydia and I hope to see her in more things! That girl has one hell of a voice and honestly caused me to get a bit weepy right before and during the song “Home”. I’ve lost a parent and I’ve lost other family members that were just as close. She made me empathize. I knew, at least a little bit, how Lydia felt and it was the acting that did it.

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And of course, the Ghost with the Most: Beetlejuice played by Alex Brightman. Sure I’d been listening to him on the album and I’d see the Tony performance. But seeing him in person was better than I imagined. I don’t know if he ever watched the old cartoon, but I saw elements of that Beetlejuice along with bits of Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice all mixed into his own performance and it WORKED! Everything I love about the character of Beetlejuice, he managed to hit and then make me love new things. Also, this was definitely an R rated show for language and I adored it. From him telling Barbara and Adam to “fuck off” while flipping them the bird to his exchange with Charles at the end:

“Charles, you ripe old bastard. Never change.”

“I already have.”

“Well, go fuck yourself.”

I think it was the end of the musical that really made me think back to the cartoon where Beetlejuice wasn’t totally a bad guy. The heart of this old Beetlejuice fan was pretty darn pleased with how it all came together at the end.

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Me and my Beetlejuice tattoo at Beetlejuice the Musical!

 

Before I forget (and I had to go back and edit this to add what I forgot the first time), I want to mention how the show hits on some serious themes. Death of a parent/spouse/loved one, grief and the grieving process, suicide, and even just learning how to live. They aren’t things you might expect from a musical based on Beetlejuice but the show manages to confront all of these. Lydia’s depression and grief from the loss of her mom and her anger at her father for, seemingly, trying to forget that she existed. The desperation as she tries to find some way to bring her mom, who was her world, back in any form. Charles’ attempt to deal with the same loss but he deals by trying to push it away and move on. And while he succeeds in finding someone he can love, he also realizes that his own way of dealing with the grief only hurt Lydia even more.

Lydia’s desire to just not exist in a world where her mom is gone and her dad might as well be gone, where no one seems to care that she exists and is hurting. I get that. And it’s Beetlejuice who convinces her not to jump. True, it’s because he needs her alive, but he helps her to find a reason to stay alive at least for now. “Dead Mom” is a sad song, don’t get me wrong. But it’s “Home” and particularly the the exchange between Lydia and Charles that isn’t on the album but is in the show that almost got me crying. We watch and travel with Lydia through the stages of grief and are with her when she finds a way to accept it and promises herself that she will never forget her mom but she’s going to go back and make the best of the life and family that she has, no matter how messy it is.

How about Barbara and Adam? The way they also over-plan, very much like I do. To the point of just never taking the leap to truly do what they want. There’s a fear there and that fear keeps them stagnant, a feeling I know all too well. And then they die! It takes their deaths and Lydia’s arrival and peril to make them realize how they need to change and adapt and finally be happy. “Barbara 2.0” wasn’t one of my favorite songs in the beginning, maybe because it hit a little close to home. Now I can’t help but sing along. And it makes me actually take a look at my own life. That song is like a Marie Kondo, but in the afterlife. Still, it applies quite nicely to actual life.

Remember Miss Argentina? The afterlife receptionist who had the little “accident”? She has a fantastic song that is sung to Lydia while she’s in the Netherworld looking for her mom. Miss Argentina tries to convince Lydia and Charles to go back and live. It’s not worth giving it all up just because of the lows. The song manages to address the topic of suicide in an unexpectedly catchy way, almost where you don’t even realize it until the words sink in. And not just suicide. It’s a reminder to live and enjoy life while you can. Even the opener song “The Whole Being Dead Thing” is a reminder of that. Death is what waits for everyone, some sooner, some later.

And for all that I love the song “Creepy Old Guy” it brings up the issue of dudes leering at women, “Hey baby, smile!”, but in particular the skin-crawling reality of older dudes doing this to women who are underage. Once upon a time I was that girl. And it’s definitely creepy and not at all funny. How about child marriage? It drags that out into the open too! Hell, there’s even a line in the song about the marriage of Lydia and Beetlejuice: “I can’t believe some cultures think this kind of thing’s alright.”

How did a musical about Beetlejuice manage to bring up so many topics that are usually so hard to talk about? Maybe it’s the medium that will help folks see themselves in this music. Maybe someone will listen to it and find some comfort in their own grief. Maybe someone who feels as though there is no hope and they are invisible, will listen and hold onto life through this music until they are able to find someone to help.

Maybe someone like me who puts things off, who plans but never does, who also feels invisible and unimportant when the lows of depression are bad, will find this music and decide to finally “do”. And hold onto the music and the messages in the songs when the depression hits again.

And take an adventure like I just did.

You got unexpectedly deep on me, Beetlejuice the Musical. And you actually got me to break out of my own stagnation and depression, even if it was just a little bit.

I could go on about the show and every single thing I loved about it for pages. But I’m fairly certain I’ve already written enough to make some folks yawn.

I’d give at least four toes to be able to see this cast again soon. It’s amazing and I want to go back to see all the things that I’m sure I missed. And I’d love the chance to shake hands at the stage door. But if you get a chance to go, please do. It’s worth it. And if you happen to get the cast to sign a playbill and want to send it to me, I wouldn’t say no!

Here’s hoping I can get enough knitting commissions to pay for another trip!

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I came. I saw. I Beetlejuiced!

~ by rumielf on July 15, 2019.

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