Beetle Juice at the Detroit Opera House "Welcome to a show about Death"

February 3, 2023

Welcome to a Show About Death!

By: Diana Brang-Scott

Look out Detroit, BEETLEJUICE- the Ghost-with-the-most is here and ready to be your guide to the Netherworld. Fans of the 1988 movie are going to love and appreciate seeing all your favorite characters come to life on stage. BEETLEJUICE the musical keeps the same bones as the movie, yet there are many differences that change everything from little details to major motivations. The show encompasses all the ghostly aspects of what made the movie so great while expanding on the story in ways that are equally interesting and entertaining. The show opens at the funeral for Emily Deetz the mother of Lydia (Ms. Isabella Esler), who is singing her first of several ballads. Her innocent youthful voice is beautifully soft and poignant as she sings “Invisible” lamenting her mother’s death. The melancholy mood is abruptly interrupted with “Holy crap! A ballad already!” rudely exclaimed by Beetlejuice. (Justin Collette) The fourth wall of the stage was quickly shattered and from that very moment, I was dead!
Justin Collette commands the stage and has made the character of Beetlejuice his own. He openly tells us that “If you die during the show, this show will not stop.” If you find that to be distasteful or crass, buckle up buttercup because this is just the beginning. He jokes before informing the audience this version isn’t exactly a sad story, but it is indeed a show about death. He then kills us with (my favorite number in this show) “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing.” BEETLEJUICE is a wicked comedy filled with quick one liners, sexual innuendos and dark side splitting humor.

Based on Tim Burton’s dearly beloved film, BEETLEJUICE tells the story of Lydia Deetz, a strange and unusual teenager whose life changes when she meets a recently deceased couple and Beetlejuice, a demon with a thing for stripes. When Lydia calls on Beetlejuice to scare away anyone with a pulse, this double-crossing specter unleashes a (Nether)world of pandemonium, and the biggest sandworm Broadway has ever seen.

Esler is just out of high school and is making her Broadway debut, but don’t let her youth fool you. She is charming, engaging, brings emotion to this complex role and later in the show, gets to showcase her vocal range and powerful voice in the number “Home” which in my opinion, is perhaps even more tearjerking than her first two ballads. (I needed a tissue) There are many Michigan connections to this show. The characters of Adam and Barbra Maitland (the normal everyday Trader Joes millennial couple) are played by Will Burton and Britney Coleman who were collage roommates (now playing a married couple) together at the University of Michigan. Also fellow U of M graduate and ensemble member is Nevada Riley. Go Blue!

One notable character for me was Delia, played by Kate Marilley. In the musical she is Lydia’s the spacey “life coach” hired by her father to help Lydia after her mother’s passing. Marilley shines in this role. Her facial expressions and body language are delightfully funny, she milks the laughs. Delia is charmingly shallow, and I adored every minute she was on stage. (More Delia please)

BEETLEJUICE is directed by Tony Award® winner Alex Timbers (Moulin Rouge!, Director of Warner Bros. forthcoming TOTO, the animated musical film adaptation of Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester Clark’s 2017 book) with an original score by Tony Award nominee Eddie Perfect (King Kong) a book by Tony Award nominee Scott Brown (“Castle Rock”) and Tony and Emmy Award® nominee Anthony King.

Visually the sets designed by David Korins (three-time Tony award nominee) are incredible. They take you from a simple living room of a country home to the depths of hell faster than you can say “Beetle Juice three times” You truly feel as if you are inside a Tim Burton film. At times the strobe lights can be a bit of sensory overload but other than that you won’t want to take your eyes off this show.

Come on out and see Beetlejuice while you’re still breathing, he reminds us multiple times that “You are all going to die.” But honestly, besides being a dark comedy with over-the-top sets, this is also a story of wanting to be seen, needing a connection, love, family and making the most out of each and every Day-O!

It’s Show time! Beetlejuice is playing January 31 – February 12, 2023, at the Detroit Opera House. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at, by phone at 800-982-2787, and in person at the Fisher Theatre Box Office.

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Photos by Matthew Murphy, 2022