The musical adaptation of Tim Burton’s 1988 film Beetlejuice, which features music and lyrics by Australian singer-songwriter Eddie Perfect, has opened on Broadway to decidedly mixed reviews. With a book by Scott Brown and Anthony King and directed by Alex Timbers, the show is playing at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York with Alex Brightman and Sophia Anne Caruso in the lead roles. It follows Perfect’s King Kong, which opened on Broadway to tepid reviews last year. As far as the New York critics go, however, Beetlejuice isn’t faring much better. While it’s been dubbed “a scream” by Variety, the New York Post called it “a disaster” – and there are a range of opinions in between.
Alex Brightman and Sophia Anne Caruso Beetlejuice. Photo © Matthew Murphy
“This show so overstuffs itself with gags, one-liners and visual diversions that you shut down from sensory overload,” wrote New York Times critic Ben Brantley, who said that the music “mostly exists in a loud, undifferentiated blur.”
The Guardian’s three-star review acknowledged that Beetlejuice “provides an enjoyably silly night out” but described Perfect’s songs as “forgettable.” (The reviewer, Alexis Soloski, also said the musical was “probably everything that’s wrong with Broadway.”)
Time Out awarded the show three stars as well, for what it called a “buggy” musical. “It looks great, and there are strong performances and some outré laughs, but none of it quite fits together; the tone varies wildly, and skids around on Eddie Perfect’s slipshod score,” Adam Feldman wrote.
The New York Post didn’t pull any punches in its brutal one-star review, describing the show as “dismal and gross” and taking a swipe at Perfect. “Fresh off his heinous music for King Kong, the Australian composer’s dismal soft-rock score fuels one of the worst Broadway musicals in years,” wrote Johnny Oleksinski.
The reviews weren’t all bad, however. “While the poppy score is uneven and the second act becomes overly convoluted, tripping up on its own plot contortions, the spectacular production values and rapid-fire jokes deliver plenty of rambunctious entertainment,” said The Hollywood Reporter.
Vulture’s Sara Holdren called the musical “a pretty fun time,” and said Perfect’s “power-poppy score and impish, up-to-the-minute lyrics are much better suited to Beetlejuice than to the lumpishly epic King Kong.”
Variety was more positive, calling Beetlejuice “screamingly good fun.” Reviewer Frank Rizzo singled out the “tuneful music and wicked lyrics of Perfect, who redeems himself here after his boilerplate score for King Kong.”