"Day, me say, day-o. Daylight come and we want go home."
Tim Burton used Harry Belafonte's "(Day-O) The Banana Boat Song" to spectacular effect in his 1988 fantastical ghost story "Beetlejuice," as possessed guests dance gloomily around a dinner table in a haunted house. A sequel to the film is scheduled for release in 2024, but Minnesotans who cotton to the show's undead charms don't have to wait that long to see another version.
The Broadway tour of "Beetlejuice" lands Tuesday at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. The engagement isn't the launch of the new Broadway tour season, but the unspooling of the final bit of programming knotted up by the Covid pandemic.
The musical, with new songs composed by Eddie Perfect, retains many of the characters and story elements of the movie. But the stage version is much lighter tonally than the film. The musical also departs from its source material in several ways.
Ghosts in the machine:In both versions, the title character is a demon stuck in a kind of purgatory who wants to come back to life. The Maitlands, a sweet couple, die suddenly (in a car crash in the film, falling through their floorboards at home in the musical). They don't want to be dead and certainly don't want anyone else to live in their home, so they enlist Beetlejuice's aid in scaring off the new owners, the Deetzes. Goth teenager Lydia Deetz, who lives with her dad and his new partner, is the only one who can see ghosts.
Lydia, front and center: Lydia's role has ballooned in the musical, becoming a moody, alienated main character who is as important as Beetlejuice, who describes himself as the leading" bio-exorcist" of the afterlife. Lydia has big numbers (including "Prologue: Invisible" and "Dead Mom") that speak to her emotions and state of mind as she grieves her mother while her father seeks to turn the page.
Modernized tech: The film had fantastical elements that were achieved with the leading technology of…1988. Of course, much of that looks dated today. In the stage version, characters fly and spontaneously combust, no doubt intriguing theatergoers. Michael Curry, who won a Tony for his costume design for "The Lion King," created the puppets for the stage version of the ravenous, soul-eating sandworms.
Twisting up the plot: Beetlejuice enters the narrative much earlier in the stage production than in the film. And he's much more of an impresario/emcee onstage, kibbitzing with the audience as he makes his wishes known. He not only wants to be visible again, but to come back to life, and the only way to do that is to wed someone alive. (Director Alex Timbers has talked about the symmetry of a dead guy who wants to be alive, and a grieving girl who wishes she were dead.)
Characters new and psyched: The musical adds Skye the Girl Scout, a character with a heart arrhythmia, as a delicate figure for whom being frightened may be life-threatening. The musical also changes the relationship between Lydia and Delia. In the film Delia is Lydia's stepmother. On the stage, Delia is Lydia's life coach.
Blasts from the film The musical creators were keen to appeal to fans of the film, and so there are cameos by characters, such as Miss Argentina, the receptionist in waiting room of the waiting room of the Neitherworld. But nosy neighbor Jane Butterfield only makes it as a picture of a tombstone.
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 8 p.m. Fri., 2 & 8 p.m. Sept. 23, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24.
Tickets: $99-$199. hennepintheatretrust.org.