A Washington Publish critic sprayed a can of Raid on the out-of-town tryout of “Beetlejuice” final fall. Peter Marks referred to as the $20 million musical “overcaffeinated, overstuffed and nearly charmless.”
“Beetlejuice,” named for the bawdy ghost of Tim Burton’s 1988 hit film, was certain 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 workforce and went by means of the present “beat by beat,” expunging all that was tasteless, lewd and inappropriate in the submit #MeToo period. He additionally demanded higher jokes and songs.
“He realized the present as written can’t be finished in the cultural panorama we’re dwelling in,” one other supply says. “He wished to eliminate what was gross and low cost, and discover one other approach 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 lifeless 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 just a few years in the past is uncomfortable now. One scene featured a Lady 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 have been “a bit ditzy,” a manufacturing supply says. Ditzy is gone now as effectively.
Eddie Excellent, an Australian songwriter, wrote the rating. He additionally wrote the songs for “King Kong,” which isn’t going to win any Tony Awards. Marks referred to as his music “predictably peppy,” with “serviceable energy ballads.”
Insiders complained that the rating lacked a coherent sound, coming throughout like a hodgepodge of types. The present has since been re-orchestrated to meld its calypso, rock and pop types.
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 is still 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 a complete new degree with a creature referred to as a sandworm that overwhelms the stage.
However you may’t rely on units and puppets to recoup $20 million: It’s the script and rating that make successful.
I’m glad to announce the debut of a brand new TV present devoted to theater. It’s referred to as “Theater: All the Shifting Components,” and it premieres Friday night time at 9:30 on CUNY-TV. My good friend Patrick Pacheco, the veteran theater reporter, is the host.
“All the Shifting Components” will function in-depth interviews with theater individuals who don’t typically stand in the highlight: designers, producers, writers, administrators, publicists and possibly even an usher or two (they have the finest tales). Theresa Rebeck, who created the TV present “Smash,” is Pacheco’s first visitor. She has an ideal line: “Write one thing large. Make it epic. Depart blood on the ground.”
You’ll be able to hear Michael Riedel weekdays on “Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning” on WOR radio 710.