A Washington Publish critic sprayed a can of Raid on the out-of-town tryout of “Beetlejuice” final fall. Peter Marks known as the $20 million musical “overcaffeinated, overstuffed and just about charmless.”
“Beetlejuice,” named for the bawdy ghost of Tim Burton’s 1988 hit film, was sure to have tasteless jokes, however Marks thought the musical tipped over into “foul instructions.”
The present, he concluded, wanted “a visit again to the lab the place they repair musicals.”
And that’s precisely the place it went.
A supply tells me that director Alex Timbers sat down with the inventive crew and went by the present “beat by beat,” expunging all that was tasteless, lewd and inappropriate in the post-#MeToo period. He additionally demanded higher jokes and songs.
“He realized the present as written can’t be executed in the cultural panorama we’re dwelling in,” one other supply says. “He needed to eliminate what was gross and low-cost, and discover one other method of telling the story.”
The extent of the revamping stunned many theater insiders at a run-through this week. Expectations stay low, frankly, however there’s appreciable buzz that “Beetlejuice,” which begins previews March 28 at the Winter Backyard, is now not useless on arrival.
Scott Brown and Anthony King tailored Burton’s screenplay for the stage. King is a comic who as soon as ran the Upright Residents Brigade comedy membership in New York. Brown is the former drama critic for New York journal. Their earlier collaboration, “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” was tedious for adults, hilarious for youngsters.
They introduced that sensibility to “Beetlejuice,” however then the Harvey Weinstein scandals got here alongside, and what may have been humorous a couple of years in the past is uncomfortable now. One scene featured a Woman Scout promoting cookies door-to-door whereas being chased by male ghosts with their tongues hanging out.
That scene was the first to go.
The feminine characters in the first draft had been “a bit ditzy,” a manufacturing supply says. Ditzy is gone now as nicely.
Eddie Good, an Australian songwriter, wrote the rating. He additionally wrote the songs for “King Kong,” which isn’t going to win any Tony Awards. Marks known as his music “predictably peppy,” with “serviceable energy ballads.”
Insiders complained that the rating lacked a coherent sound, coming throughout like a hodgepodge of kinds. The present has since been re-orchestrated to meld its calypso, rock and pop kinds.
Gone is a boy-band parody that fell flat. Instead is a brand new quantity for Miss Argentina, who, after slitting her wrists, was despatched to the netherworld to turn out to be a bureaucrat.
“If I knew then what I do know now,” she says in the present, as she did in the movie, “I wouldn’t have had my ‘little accident.’ ”
A supply who’s not concerned in the present noticed the run-through and says, “It’s been revamped for the higher,” however added the finish continues to be a little bit weak.
Not weak are the units, by David Korins (“Hamilton”), and the puppets, by Michael Curry, who labored with Julie Taymor to create Broadway’s blockbuster “The Lion King.”
Korins’ macabre units dazzle the eyes, whereas Curry has taken puppetry to an entire new stage with a creature known as a sandworm that overwhelms the stage.
However you possibly can’t rely on units and puppets to recoup $20 million: It’s the script and rating that make a success.
I’m joyful to announce the debut of a brand new TV present devoted to theater. It’s known as “Theater: All the Shifting Components,” and it premieres Friday night time at 9:30 on CUNY-TV. My pal Patrick Pacheco, the veteran theater reporter, is the host.
“All the Shifting Components” will function in-depth interviews with theater individuals who don’t usually stand in the highlight: designers, producers, writers, administrators, publicists and possibly even an usher or two (they have the greatest tales). Theresa Rebeck, who created the TV present “Smash,” is Pacheco’s first visitor. She has a terrific line: “Write one thing huge. Make it epic. Go away blood on the ground.”
You possibly can hear Michael Riedel weekdays on “Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning” on WOR radio 710.