Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Beetlejuice

Go To
God, I hope you're ready for a show about death!

The Musical adaptation of Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, which started its run in Washington D.C. in 2018 and officially opened on Broadway on April 25, 2019. The book was written by Scott Brown and Anthony King, and the songs provided by Australian comedian Eddie Perfect.

After perishing in a gruesome accident, loving couple Barbara and Adam Maitland return to their home as ghosts and find that it's now under the ownership of the recently widowed Charles Deetz, his Goth teenage daughter Lydia (who's still having a difficult time coping with the loss of her mother), and Delia, Lydia's inept life coach who's secretly in a relationship with the girl's father (a notable change from the film, in which she was simply her stepmother). Desperate to scare the family out of their beloved house, the Maitlands end up enlisting the help of the perverted and loudmouthed ghoul Betelguese, who eventually strikes up a wicked plan involving Lydia...

The musical alters and rearranges many aspects of the original story, but stays true to the zany, gothic visuals and absurd Black Comedy of Burton's classic. It was nominated for eight Tony Awards for the 2018-2019 season, including Best Musical; it didn't win any. Thanks to a huge fanbase, the show seemed to be getting a comeback during 2019-2020 Broadway season and was to run through June 6, 2020 to make way for the Hugh Jackman-led revival of The Music Man, which would take its place that fall and was contractually obligated to be staged in the Winter Garden Theatre.

Unfortunately, due to the Broadway shutdown from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the show missed their closing date; the shutdown began mid-March 2020 and ended in the fall of 2021. Producers had begun looking for a new venue for the show, as well as scheduling a national tour for 2021 or developing a proshoot, but no plans were set in stone, leaving the show's run on Broadway - rather appropriately, given the text - in limbo.

However, in September 2021, as Broadway shows began to reopen, it was revealed that Beetlejuice would return to Broadway in April 2022, moving to a new location. The show reopened on April 8, 2022 at the Marquis Theatre, and ran for nine months before officially closing on January 8, 2023.

Oh, and full disclosure: it's some tropes about death!

  • Abusive Parents: Betelgeuse mentions a few times that his mother was a horrible parent who prioritized booze over her own son. We later find out that this awful woman is Juno.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: Instead of banishing BJ by saying his name three times again or getting him eaten by a sandworm, the cast gets him brought to life... to kill him and send him back to the Netherworld. Then Juno comes for revenge on Lydia for escaping the Netherworld and ends up the one eaten by the sandworm, as BJ tries to protect life now that he knows what it feels like, and he runs off to do something new while the two families decide to live together like in the film.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: The death of Lydia's mother plays a huge role in both the story and Lydia's character. The latter spends most of the show grieving about her loss, and she eventually traverses to the Netherworld with the hopes of meeting her again.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Applied to Betelgeuse himself, believe it or not. He looks far younger, his hair is now much neater and shorter (if not a little exaggerated and green), and he no longer has the black eye makeup and ugly teeth. He even wears his signature striped suit for the majority of the show, instead of the old, dirty clothes that he wore in the film.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Juno is hit with this hard, thanks to her Adaptational Villainy. She's now a powerful demon who can push around Betelgeuse himself with no effort at all. With The Reveal of her being his mother, it's made pretty clear where BJ got all his zany powers.
    • Lydia also has shades of this, from pushing Beetlejuice off the roof seemingly for shits and giggles to outwitting him at his own wedding scheme and quite literally stabbing him in the back. With Bad Art.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Delia is portrayed as ditzy and incompetent here, frequently spouting nonsensical life advice that does very little to help Lydia's situation.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job:
    • Barbara is a brunette in the film, but is played by the blonde Kerry Butler in the original cast.
    • The D.C. tryout performances turned Lydia into a platinum blonde to accommodate Sophia Caruso's hair color, but she eventually went back to black for the Broadway run.
    • Beetlejuice also has his fair share of hair color changes, according to an interview done by Variety, with Alex Brightman. Beetlejuice's hair changes along with his emotions, like a mood ring, from green, to purple, to red, to a darker green, and to a more electric green.
  • Adaptational Expansion:
    • The passing of Lydia's mother Emily is a crucial part of the plot, while it was only implied in the original film.
    • Betelgeuse meets the Maitlands immediately after their deaths, and unlike the film, he successfully persuades them into enlisting his help. Unfortunately, they're so pathetic at scaring people that he calls it quits and moves on to Lydia.
    • Lydia frees Betelgeuse much earlier in the storynote , and they spend the beginning of Act Two scaring people and spreading mayhem within the house. They also form a bit of a friendly relationship (similar to the animated series) until she shoves him aside to find her mother, pushing BJ to hatch up his penultimate marriage scheme.
    • A new segment is added where Lydia (followed by Charles) enters the Netherworld to find her dead mother. This is a notable deviation from the film, where the Maitlands are the only ones who go to the Netherworld.
    • "No Reason" reveals that Delia's ex-husband left her for another man, dashing her dreams of raising a family (because of this, she ended up freezing her eggs).
    • Miss Argentina's backstory is expanded upon in "What I Know Now"; she was a wealthy beauty queen living in the lap of luxury, but her low self-esteem threw her into a deep depression and she ended up slitting her own wrists.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Betelgeuse, while still as crass and obnoxious as ever, is given the sympathetic motive of wanting to experience life again; he just resorts to some sleazy methods to achieve it. At the end, his short-lived resurrection allows him to understand why life is important to those still alive, and it seems to have sapped his love of murder.
    • Delia, for a given value of heroism. She genuinely wants to be friendly with Lydia from the start and is even concerned about the effect Delia and Charles’s affair will have on Lydia if they keep it secret; she just has no idea how to get through to the girl and mostly manages to embarrass herself.
  • Adaptational Jerkass:
    • Lydia is much more troubled by her mother's death and vents out her frustrations by summoning Betelgeuse to scare anyone who visits.
    • Charles is a minor case, but he comes off as much more dismissive and indifferent to Lydia's pain by keeping his affair with Delia a secret until near the end of Act 1. This is mitigated in the second act.
  • Adaptational Job Change:
    • Delia is now Lydia's personal life coach, instead of her stepmother and an eccentric artist. She still brings along some kooky art once the Deetzes move in, but it's never explicitly stated whether she made them herself.
    • Otho is no longer an interior designer; instead, he's a self-proclaimed guru and life coach. He was also a cult leader in the preview production, but this idea was eventually scrapped.
    • Juno isn't a caseworker anymore and is now, according to the official Twitter, the Director of Netherworld Customs and Processing.
  • Adaptational Name Change:
    • Played for Laughs with Betelgeuse; apparently, his first name is Lawrence.
    • "Otho" is actually the character's alias; he reveals his true name (Kevin) shortly before his implied demise. It's also implied he goes by just Otho, while his film counterpart was Otho Fenwick.
    • Maxie Dean's wife Sarah is named Maxine here.
    • According to the original script for the movie, Lydia's mother's name was Evelyn. Here, her name is Emily.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Adam and Barbara in the original film were essentially sweet, normal people intended as audience surrogates, and while Adam was a little bit of a Cloud Cuckoolander they were both very grounded, as well as pretty good at coming up with scares, just not at being seen performing them. Here they're essentially Brad and Janet if they never made it to Frank's castle, and too set in their milquetoast ways to have basically any idea of how to scare anyone until Lydia collaborates with them.
    • The film's Charles and Delia were respectively a relatively normal, casual guy (albeit one recovering from a nervous breakdown) and a highly-strung, sharp-tongued artist with a lot of difficulty showing any warmth or affection toward Lydia especially until the end. The show's Charles is The Comically Serious and a brooding widower attempting to brush back his own grief with work and (initially misguided) attempts to help Lydia with hers, while Delia is a spacey New Age type who does her best to be as kind and loving toward Lydia as possible and mostly fails only because she and Lydia have aggressively different viewpoints, and Lydia wallows in grief while Delia tries to grin through it.
  • Adaptational Sexuality:
    • Otho was implied to be gay in the original film and this is still the case in this musical, but the scrapped song "I Am Very Good at Running Cults" had him mention that he's bedded a lot of women.
    • Word of God states that Betelgeuse is pansexual, as he constantly flirts with (and sometimes harasses) Barbara, Adam, and Delia, and right before "Creepy Old Guy" suggests a collective sexual activity between him and all the characters in the scene.
    • Adam himself is either Ambiguously Bi or very good at faking it.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: In the film, Juno was one of the few normal-looking ghosts in the Netherworld, with her only distinguishable feature being the huge slice in her throat. She looks a lot more exaggerated here, with a wrinkly white face and an enormous grey Beehive Hairdo. If anything, her design is more in line with the traditional Burton style.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Betelgeuse manipulates the Maitlands from the start instead of merely being hired by them and then going into his schemes. He plans pretty much everything that happens to them. He's also way, way more into killing and/or murder, much to the horror of whoever is listening to him at the time.
      • In the movie, Betelgeuse's sole moment of empathy is when Lydia confesses she's suicidal, and he replies with a surprised "why?" offering to talk to her if she frees him. In this version, while he does save Lydia from her suicide attempt, he doesn't do so out of empathy, but because Lydia can see him and therefore break his curse.
    • Juno appears as a full-blown villain instead of a helpful character. She's also explicitly stated to be a demon in this version, as well as Betelgeuse's abusive and alcoholic mother.
  • Adaptational Wimp: The Maitlands are depicted as a squeaky clean and overly-polite suburban couple here whose only reason for crafting was to repress their fears of parenthood, and are much worse at scaring people than their movie counterparts (they were able to pull off some genuinely terrifying scares in the film, they just couldn't be seen).
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Betelgeuse is willing to beg on his knees for someone to say his name if he thinks it'll work.
  • Arc Words: Two particular phrases, both used prominently by Betelgeuse and Lydia.
    • "Say my name." Betelgeuse, of course, needs a living person to say his name three times, while Lydia just wants her father to listen to her, and acknowledge her late mother instead of acting like she never existed. (He eventually admits to her that he didn't want to think about his wife because he's still grieving over her, and her memory is just too painful to bear.)
    • Invisible. Lydia feels metaphorically invisible in her own home, and laments on how the world carries on like normal while she's stuck suffering from depression, with not even her father and life coach batting an eye. Betelgeuse and the Maitlands, on the other hand, are literally invisible, since they're ghosts who can't be seen by anyone but Lydia. Betelgeuse in particular wants to become visible so that he can interact with the world again (and wreak lots of havoc).
    • House/Home is seen often as the (ownership of/the haunting of the) Victorian plays a major role. The musical’s very first line is the response from "Day-O": "Daylight come and me wanna go..." trailing off before it reaches home. Adam Maitland's first line is "Barbara, I'm home!" The Maitlands' introductory song ("Ready, Set, Not Yet") has them deciding to put off having children because of necessary home renovations (then dying at the end of it). Because they died in their house, Beetlejuice can keep the Maitlands there, haunting it. Getting the Deetzes out of their home is what convinces the Maitlands to team up with Beetlejuice. Lydia balks at moving into the Victorian and selling the house where she used to live (with her recently-deceased mother). The only reason the Deetzes are moving in is to turn the house into a "flagship model home" for her father’s planned gated community. Lydia doesn't accept the idea of this new house being her home, identifying her mother as home instead ("You're my home / My destination"), which establishes the driving motivation behind her actions in the show: she tries to get back home by seeing her mother again ("Dead Mom"). Lydia teams up with the Maitlands as they all want the Deetzes out of the house. Lydia finally calls on Beetlejuice when the Maitlands' haunting fails ("Day-O"), and it seems her father is going to make money on the Victorian being haunted. Adam opens the portal to the Netherworld, but Barbara closes it as she’s afraid of leaving the house and of change. The Maitlands ("Barbara 2.0") then realize they are sick of living in the attic of their house (with their failed projects) and decide to be there for Lydia as she needs a family and "Not a house / But a home." In the Netherworld, Miss Argentina tells ("What I Know Now") Lydia: "So if you are breathing / Go home!" Lydia's song after that is called "Home". Realizing that she can't bring her mother back from the Netherworld, she despairs, saying that she has no home without her mother, until she identifies her family (her father, Delia and the Maitlands) as being her home. The ending is the Deetzes and the Maitlands deciding to live together and cleaning up the house. The show's final lyrics are: "Mama, I'm home / I'm home / I'm home," and the repeated response from "Day-O".
  • Ascended Extra: Miss Argentina has an entire song about how she regrets killing herself and missing out on the rest of her life, and is joined halfway by several other spirits who recently died (a paraglider who jumped at the wrong time, a woman who committed suicide by dropping a toaster into a bathtub, a classy man who died when he ignited his bed while smoking in it, a football team whose bus crashed, a man who was murdered by his wife, whom he cheated on, a jockey who was thrown from her horse, a construction worker who was careless with explosives, and the recurring extra of the hunter with the shrunken head). This is the first key moment that helps push Lydia out of her suicidal state.
    Miss Argentina: I'll tell you another thing, everyone here is alone. So if you are breathing, go home!
  • The Barnum: Betelgeuse, in a nutshell. It's patently obvious that he has a scheme going on when he tries to get the Deetzes to haunt their own house, as well as trying to get Lydia on the hook for something. What the Deetzes don't know is just how far Betelgeuse is willing to go for what he wants, or the depths that he'll make them sink to for the sake of trying to stop him.
  • Batman Gambit: BJ modifies the handbook so Lydia won't know how dangerous it really is and will think she can bring her mother back. Even after seeing first-hand the danger with the Maitlands, she falls for it hook, line and sinker because she's that desperate to have her mother back.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Lydia and Charles have the whole cast pull this on Betelgeuse, by actually letting him marry Lydia to live again... only to kill him within a minute so they can send him to the Netherworld and be rid of him.
  • The Big Damn Kiss:
    • Adam and Barbara share a passionate, romantic kiss toward the climax of "Barbara 2.0" to seal the deal on their decision to treat death as a new lease on life.
    • Parodied with Charles and Delia making out on the dining room table minutes after their entrance. It's framed more or less like their sexual tension has finally shattered into passion, but their dialogue and further scenes imply this is just how they are together on a regular basis.
      • And parodied even further when Adam briefly seduces Beetlejuice as a distraction and plants a long, heated kiss on him. (Barbara tries to do the same but can't bring herself to go through with it.)
  • Big Damn Heroes: Before Juno gets the chance to kill the Deetzes, but Betelgeuse rides in on the sandworm and allows it to devour Juno, ultimately saving their lives.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Whether it's in the show, in televised performances, or even on the cast recording, Betelgeuse can go full Deadpool on you if he feels like it.
      Betlegeuse: (on the cast recording) If you die while listening to this album, it's still gonna keep playing!
      (On the Today Show and at the Tony Awards): If you die during this performance, the broadcast will not stop!
      (At the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade): If you die during Thanksgiving dinner, you don't have to wash the dishes!
    • Throughout the show, whenever Betelgeuse says something self-deprecating — he's lonely, feeling like no one cares about him, that he'll never amount to anything, etc. — he'll point to someone in the front row and say "This guy knows what I'm talking about!"
    • During the penultimate song:
      Betelgeuse: A dance break on an album? Amazing!
    • In that same song, "Creepy Old Guy", the rest of the cast and Betelgeuse all turn to the audience to sing the line, "I can't believe some cultures think this kind of thing's all right". This is the only time any character other than Betelgeuse breaks the fourth wall in the show.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: In "That Beautiful Sound", Betelgeuse describes the eponymous sound (someone screaming in fright) as "the sound of clean white shorts turning brown."
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: During "Say My Name," Betelgeuse possess the Maitlands and has them relentlessly praise him in order to convince Lydia to let him free.
  • Call a Human a "Meatbag": Betelgeuse often refers to the living as "breathers."
  • Camp Gay: Otho, as in the original film. Hell, he's actually even more flamboyant now.
    Otho: Sucks-YES!
  • Canon Foreigner: Skye the Girl Scout, who gets her own song at the top of Act 2 and ends up being BJ and Lydia's first scare victim.
  • Central Theme:
    • Death, of course. The opening number, "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing", blatantly and repeatedly calls this "a show about death".
    • Betelgeuse has a cynical approach to it ("When you're dead, who gives a shit?"), and the living try desperately to avoid the uncomfortable subject. Meanwhile, Lydia's story has a more positive and hopeful viewpoint (you can’t dwell in the past, and have to learn to say goodbye to your deceased loved ones in order to continue your life at its fullest, but you can always keep their memory in your heart).
    • Miss Argentina and the Netherworld inhabitants also offer a cautionary message with the song "What I Know Now", which advocates not being reckless or suicidal — some of them died of preventable accidents rather than suicide, but still lament their choices that landed them in the Netherworld before they were ready to go.
  • Citizenship Marriage: BJ's plan for Lydia is to marry her so he can be alive again. When he initially brings up the idea, even his duplicates are disgusted until he clarifies, "It's not a real marriage; it's like a green-card type of deal!" This logic doesn't work as well to reassure the Maitlands, Lydia, or her family.
  • Couch Gag: A rare live-action example; late in the show's run, the actors playing Betelgeuse and Lydia began incorporating gags into their joint curtain call that changed every night, such as Wimp Fighting on their way back to the stage or swapping costumes.
  • Cutting the Knot: After the Maitlands refuse to open the handbook again, BJ comes up with a way to do it despite not being recently deceased himself: kill a bird and have Lydia pry the book open with its recently deceased beak. (This scene is removed in the Broadway version of the show, where the only requirement to open the book is that you are dead, and Betelgeuse opens it quite easily by himself.)
  • Darker and Edgier: The musical is considerably more adult in tone, with lewd humor and swear words abound (keep in mind that regardless of the adult jokes and Precision F-Strike in the movie, it was still rated PG). The Black Comedy is also much darker now, as exemplified by the deaths of Otho and Juno.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the film, Otho runs off screaming after Betelgeuse puts him in a drab-looking suit. His fate in the musical is much grimmer: BJ puts him on a "wheel of death" and unceremoniously kills him.
  • Deathly Dies Irae: The ensemble sings "dies irae" to the traditional tune during the final moments of "The Whole Being Dead Thing" and on one note earlier in the same piece.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • The Maitlands, due to the play focusing more on Lydia grieving for her dead mother. They still play a very important role, but it is diminished from their film selves.
    • In the film, Otho's a major supporting character who accompanies the Deetzes from the start. Here, he doesn't show up until early into Act 2, and is quickly disposed of a few scenes later.
    • Juno isn't nearly as prominent as she is in the film, since she never meets nor helps the Maitlands in this version. She is given a villainous turn for her decreased role.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Betelgeuse, who goes after several men and women and frequently calls Adam sexy.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: At the end of "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing", the ensemble briefly vocalizes the original film's theme music.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Adam and Barbara are killed when they plummet into their own basement, thanks to the house's old flooring. In the movie, they drowned after driving into a river.
    • The touring production changes their death again to accidental electrocution by faulty wiring, likely to accommodate venues that aren't able to pull off the original stage version.
  • Dirty Old Man: The ghost with the most himself, lampshaded in the penultimate number "Creepy Old Guy."
  • The Diss Track: "Creepy Old Guy" is one thinly veiled as praise and appreciation for Beetlejuice's... unconventional charms.
    Lydia: I know that on the outside he's disgusting, but even on the inside, he's disgusting...
  • Driven to Suicide: Lydia, as in the film. Unlike the film, where he evinces some genuine concern for her, BJ's main reason for stopping her here is that he specifically needs a living person to say his name.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Creepy Old Guy" wherein the tables are turned on the ghost with the most.
  • Evolving Music: When performed outside of the show, "The Whole Being Dead Thing" always changes to fit the circumstances of the performance. The live Broadway version welcomes the audience to the Winter Garden Theater, but this is changed for the cast recording, and performances for the Tony Awards, Today and especially the the Macy's Parade change the lyrics to reflect the current venue.
  • Failed Dramatic Exit: At one point, BJ attempts to disappear in a puff of smoke. When the smoke bomb he uses ends up being way too small, he just opts to exit through the door.
  • Fitness Nut: Beetlejuice mocks this trope in "The Whole Being Dead Thing", pointing out that no amount of exercise or healthy living will put off death forever.
    Nobody is bullet-proof
    "I work out, I eat clean!"
    Jesus, pass the Dramamine
  • Five Stages of Grief: Lydia goes through these, though she starts with depression instead of denial.
    • Depression: Lydia's main mood throughout the first act, upset at her mother's passing and how she thinks her father is trying to ignore it and her.
    • Anger: Lydia teaming up with the Maitlands and then Betelgeuse for revenge on her dad for getting engaged to Delia and ignoring her, and then acting out after BJ takes over the house.
    • Denial/Bargaining: Spurred on by BJ's claim that there's a spell in the Handbook for calling ghosts from the Netherworld, Lydia attempts to use it—and Barbara begins to disintegrate. As a horrified Adam and Lydia look on, BJ gleefully spills the beans on his Batman Gambit—resentful of the fact that Lydia pushed him aside in favor of finding her dead mother, he tricked her into casting a spell for exorcising ghosts so he could extort Lydia for his own chance at life through marriage. High on his victory, BJ mocks Lydia, cruelly tells her that her mom's gone for good ("Once you go to the Netherworld, you don't come back!"), and Lydia's forced to agree to get him to stop the exorcism.
    • Sadness: Just listen to "Home".
    • Acceptance: After coming to terms with her father in the Netherworld, Lydia is able to pull herself together enough to out-con Betelgeuse and save everyone, becoming much happier in the process.
  • Foreshadowing: Happens a couple of times.
    • When Betelgeuse meets the Maitlands for the first time, he asks Adam how he got Barbara to marry him. Later, it's revealed that his Evil Plan is to force Lydia into a green card marriage that will make him alive, though it's unlikely that he had planned this from the start.
    • This line of dialogue from the start of Act 2:
    Lydia: What was that thing?
    Betelgeuse: That was a Sandworm. And they eat ghosts. (To the audience) Foreshadowing.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: In "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing", Betelgeuse informs the audience that "if I hear your cell phone ringing, I'll kill you myself." Later in the same song, he says that "if you die during this performance, we're just gonna keep going".
  • Freudian Slip: Betelgeuse does this about murder a lot.
  • From Bad to Worse: Charles Deetz gets a lot of this. First, his daughter's in a seemingly unbreakable depression after the death of his wife at the start of the play. Then said daughter summons a demon to their new home because she felt he wasn't paying enough attention to her or acknowledging her mother's death enough. Then said daughter dives into the afterlife in an effort to find her mother. The man goes through the wringer.
  • Genre Savvy: While Lydia is committed to making her father suffer, she's not an idiot. She knows a supernatural being showing up out of the blue and offering to solve all her problems in exchange for one small favor is a disaster waiting to happen.
  • Ghost Song: With a show like this, there are naturally a few of these. "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing" takes the cake though, with Betelgeuse serenading the audience of their inevitable doom in a cemetery while celebrating the perks of being dead.
    Betelgeuse: No pilates, no more yoga, "namaste", you freakin' posers!
  • Goth: Lydia, who's still mourning her deceased mother and is depressed. Becomes a Perky Goth after BJ takes over the house.
  • Hates Being Alone: Part of the reason for most things Betelgeuse does is that he can't stand being alone any longer.
  • He's Back!: Subverted with the song "Barbara 2.0" where the Maitlands rally themselves—they realize they were never really living before and decide to really bring it in order to help Lydia.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Mere moments after he's resurrected, Lydia impales Betelgeuse through the chest with some of Delia's "Bad Art" in order to send him back to the Netherworld.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Little Skye has a congenital heart disease that's so serious, she "could be killed by a random sneeze". However, even after BJ and Lydia scare the crap out of her multiple times, she makes it out of the house okay.
  • Informed Attribute: Skye's last line lampshades the fact that her arrhythmic heart was able to withstand being terrified by BJ and Lydia.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Betelgeuse becomes one by the end of the play; having experienced what it was like to be alive, he chooses to end his ways as a killer and comes to appreciate Lydia and the Maitlands.
    • While Charles acts aloof and distant towards Lydia, when she travels into the Netherworld to find her mother, he's quick to follow her and manages to fix his relationship with her.
  • Lampshade Hanging: After the fifth person in a row rings the doorbell, Betelgeuse comments "Holy moly, lotta people come to this house."
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • After Lydia's opening number "Invisible" Betelgeuse remarks on the first song being "a ballad" and also the departures they're making from "the original source material!"
    • In "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing", Betelgeuse remarks that "I do this bullshit, like, eight times a week", which is the number of times a Broadway show is performed (one every evening plus an afternoon show on Saturdays).
      • Also during this song, he's liable to reference what theater they're performing in, and outright threatens the audience if he hears any cell phones. The song even has different lyrics based on if it's live or on the album, about how if you die, they're going to keep on with the show/the album will still play. Finally, it repeatedly reminds the audience that this is "a show about death!"
    • In "Fright of Their Lives", Betelgeuse starts complaining about the Maitlands, leading to a I'm Standing Right Here moment. His response is that they're the rude ones because "actually, that was a soliloquy.”
    • During his goodbyes at the end of the show, Betelgeuse notes that he and Delia don't actually have any significant stage time together and therefore he has nothing to say to her.
  • Loophole Abuse: Realizing that the terminology from The Handbook For The Recently Deceased relies on semantics and Exact Words, Lydia hatches a scheme to rid the house of Betelgeuse once and for all... by going along with BJ's forced marriage and getting everyone in on the act to sell him on the con, the wedding successfully returns Betelgeuse to life... and saps him of his powers. Before he can do anything rash, Lydia promptly kills him (again) and as he's now considered "Recently Deceased", she's able to send him back to the Netherworld. The plan would have succeeded had Juno not intervened.
  • The Lost Lenore: Lydia's dead mom, Emily, is a Missing Mom variation that she treats more like a maternal version of this (with even Barbara, who is herself dead, quietly offering her sympathies when she learns about Emily's death). Turns out she's a straightforward version of this for Charles, too, but it hurts him too much to talk about her until the end.
  • Loves the Sound of Screaming: "That Beautiful Sound": Lydia and Betelgeuse terrifying people while singing about how a scream is the sweetest noise that there is.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Betelgeuse gets exactly what he wants by marrying Lydia and coming back to life. But then, Lydia just near-instantly kills him again. And since Betelgeuse is now recently-deceased, he can be banished to the Netherworld and never escape.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: The Maitlands, making BJ give up on getting them to be scary and move on to manipulating Lydia directly. The creepiest they manage is the "Day-O" haunting, and even that goes wrong.
  • Minor Character, Major Song: Miss Argentina's Netherworld number "What I Know Now". See Ascended Extra above.
  • Misspelling Out Loud: During "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing, Part 2", Betelgeuse says "I'm the B to the double-E, J-F-Q, and Jesus, I can't spell!" He gets it right the second time, though.
  • Missing Mom: The events that set the plot in motion. Lydia's mother is dead, and Lydia will do whatever it takes to see her again.
  • Mythology Gag: Several nods to the original source material make their way into the show.
    • The overture opens with a disembodied chorus eerily singing "Daylight come and me wan' goooooo...", just like in the film.
    • A smaller, modified version of one of Delia's sculptures appears as a prop.
    • At one point, Betelgeuse literally shuts Adam's mouth closed with a slab of metal, as he did with Barbara in the film.
    • In "That Beautiful Sound", one of Betelgeuse's clones scares away a pizza man using the same "snake face" gag that Movie!BJ used on the Maitlands.
    • Lydia and Betelgeuse's buddy-buddy relationship in Act II is taken straight from the animated series.
    • The Shrunken Head Man, the dead football team, and even the smoker ghost appear in "What I Know Now" alongside Miss Argentina.
    • "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing" ends with the ensemble vocalizing the original film's theme music.
    • When BJ takes control of the Maitlands and forces them to give him "five-star reviews" for Lydia, they mention that he was a student at Julliard.
    • Just before Maxie Dean enters the house, Charles appears to glance out a window and a helicopter sound effect is heard, referencing the fact that he flew in by helicopter in the movie.
    • When Betelgeuse rides in on the sandworm at the end, he dons a ten-gallon hat and acts like a cowboy, just like he did for his commercial in the movie.
    • Lydia caps off the show the same way she ended the film, by playfully levitating while singing "Jump in the Line".
  • "No. Just… No" Reaction: In the album recording of ''Fright of Their Lives", Betelgeuse's reaction to one of Adam's "scary" suggestions: to talk like a baby.
    Betelgeuse: Adam — I don't even — No.
  • Obviously Evil: The main thing that forces Betelgeuse to fall back on his cons is that absolutely no one trusts him after knowing him for more than a few seconds, primarily due to his habit of having slip ups where he brings up murder and torture right off the bat, such as within seconds of meeting Lydia he suggests they kill her dad as an option to solving her troubles.
  • Ode to Family: "Dead Mom" is about Lydia missing her, well, dead mom, while "Home" and "Jump In The Line/Dead Mom (Reprise)" are about her mending her relationship with the rest of her family.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Betelgeuse's original plan was just to use the Maitlands to get the Deetz family to say his name three times, which fell through because the Maitlands just aren't scary. Everything else that happens in the musical afterwards comes from him emotionally manipulating Lydia instead purely because she just so happened to be able to see him, something he obviously didn't plan for.
  • Papa Wolf: Adam and Charles reach this at the same point, angrily refusing to let Lydia marry Beetlejuice nearly in perfect unison.
  • Parental Substitute: Barbara and Adam become this to Lydia almost immediately (with Lydia even delightedly laughing at one of Adam's corny jokes and declaring it "the perfect dad joke" only minutes after they've met). By the end of the show, though, she gets to have both them and her biological father Charles, as well as her future stepmom Delia, as parental figures, all working together to take care of her.
  • Parents as People: Charles at first seems dismissive indifferent towards Lydia's pain, but that is mostly because he himself is hiding his own pain over his wife's death, and finally manages to reconcile with her.
  • Patter Song: Both Adam and Barbara's parts during "Ready Set, Not Yet" fall into this.
  • Perky Goth: Unlike in the film, it's implied that Lydia was one of these until her mother died.
    • Charles points out that she's only been wearing black full-time since Emily died, and Lydia protests that she's in mourning, which suggests this is a relatively new thing for her. On the other hand, one of her fondest memories of her mother was that they used to build haunted house attractions in the summer and that Emily dressed as the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe; perhaps Emily and Lydia simply shared a love of all things spooky no matter how Lydia was dressed at the time?
  • Pep-Talk Song:
    • "Fright of Their Lives", where Betelgeuse tries coaching the Maitlands into being frightening ghosts; unfortunately for him, they're pretty pathetic at it. Fittingly enough, the song sounds like it was ripped out of an 80's training montage.
    • "No Reason" is Delia's attempt to life coach Lydia. However, her advice is anything but helpful, and Lydia is far too negative to get anything out of it.
  • Power Limiter: Betelgeuse has nearly infinite power, but to be able to use any of it he needs a living person to willingly say his name three times in a row. Part of the limit means that even he can't say his own name aloud.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • The show does a pretty good job at retaining many of the movie's fantastical elements (characters like the Shrunken Head Man and the sandworm are indeed included), but liberties are still taken when they're needed.
    • The Maitlands' miniature model of the town, which served as a recurring location in the film, is removed. As a result, Betelgeuse is no longer tiny when he first meets Lydia.
    • Betelgeuse never turns into a giant snake. The closest thing we get to it is the enormous Betelgeuse head and hands that emerge at the end of Act 1. Though there is a separate giant snake seen as early as the second number.
    • The Maitlands' fatal accident is changed to them falling through the old creaky flooring in their house. In the film, they accidentally drove their car into a river.
    • The scene where the Maitlands grotesquely disfigure their faces is omitted completely. Justified in that the movie Maitlands, while fairly staid, knew how to be scary from the start and just had trouble being seen, while their musical counterparts struggle with the entire concept and ultimately never end up very good at it (not that they have to by the end).
  • Race Lift:
    • The role of Otho is originated by Asian actor Kelvin Moon Loh.
    • As of the 2022 reopening, Maxine Dean and Juno are both played by Zonya Love, who is Black.
    • In the 2022 US Tour, Lydia Deetz is played by Isabella Esler, who is Colombian-American and Barbara is played by Britney Coleman, who is black.
      • Because of this, the lyrics “Both of you are super polite. middle class, suburban and white. well, all of that is finished tonight, Except for the white part Obviously” was changed to “Both of you are dead in the dirt, so Adam you should take off your shirt!” “why?!” “because…please…PLEASE!”
  • Rage Breaking Point: Lydia hits hers when the "Day-O" haunting ends up being a positive for her father, leading to her summoning Betelgeuse to make things go bad again.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • "Creepy Old Guy" starts with BJ not buying any of the con until things get so utterly over the top (both Maitlands coming onto him including Adam kissing him, wacky dance numbers, lots of Lydia laying it on thick) that he assumes that sure, Lydia absolutely wants to marry him and let him get what he wants because she is now perfectly okay with his green-card marriage. Why not?
    • Beetlejuice continuously makes Adam uncomfortable with sexual assault. Once Adam does call out Beetlejuice and addresses the violation, it's to pretend that his advances worked to win him over.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In the movie, Juno was merely BJ's former employer. In the musical, she's his mother.
  • Running Gag:
    • Betelgeuse continuously flirting with Adam.
      Betelgeuse: Nothing would give me more pleasure than to kill those people downstairs.
      Adam: Hold on, we do not want to kill!
      Betelgeuse: It's a figure of speech, Adam. Jesus Christ, why you gotta be so sexy?
    • At the beginning, Betelgeuse will point out a random guy in the audience... and then continue to reference him for the rest of the show.
      Betelgeuse: One minute you're on top of the world, and the next you feel like no one will ever love you. (points into the audience) This guy knows what I'm talking about!
  • Sadistic Game Show: Betelgeuse hosts one of these during Act 2, called "Life or Death." He even dons a flashy suit not unlike what you might see a game show host wear.
  • Sequel Hook: Not really, but parodied.
    Betelgeuse: (when asked about what he's going to do now) ...Maybe go on a little vision quest, find my dad... sequel!?! (imitates airhorn sound effects)
  • Shout-Out: Several, courtesy of Betelgeuse, but standouts include:
    • Charles name-drops Lolita during "Creepy Old Guy".
    • Later in the song, Betelgeuse exclaims "L'chaim! To life!", a reference to the song from Fiddler on the Roof, which also celebrated the marriage between an older man and a much younger girl. note 
    • Lydia's mother's name, Emily, could be a reference to another Tim Burton character.
    • When Betelgeuse parts way with Lydia at the end, he jokingly gushes, "I'm gonna miss you most of all, Scarecrow!"
  • Shrunken Head: The hunter from the movie makes an appearance during "What I Know Now", where the cause of his shrunken head was angering a group of pygmies. The play gets off one last joke by having him reappear as the conductor before the curtain call.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Unlike the movie (which spelled it like the star everywhere but the title) or the show (which only spelled it as a compound word) there's some inconsistency with the titular character's name. The title, the official website, and the man himself spell it "Beetlejuice", but a backdrop in the show spells it "Betelgeuse". Note that even on this page it goes back and forth.
  • The Song Before the Storm: "Day-O" serves as this before Lydia, realizing that the haunting is making things worse for her, summons Betlegeuse.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    • Delia, whose relentlessly cheerful attempts at tuning into the universe, as she calls it, are mostly her way of trying to deal with feeling repeatedly abandoned (not least by her first husband) and her fears of aging.
    • Adam and Barbara, a little, though in their case it's less trying to pretend they're happy when they're not so much as (initially) not wanting to venture into thinking of anything complicated or grim enough to mess with their happiness.
    • Maxine Dean in some portrayals (particularly Zonya Love's). Just listen to her desperate laughter as she says Maxie is "so mean" to her.
  • Suddenly Shouting:
    • Betelgeuse does it a few times, usually when trying (and failing) to hide his bad nature.
      Betelgeuse: Well, it doesn't matter if you say it, Adam, THEY HAVE TO BE ALIVE!
    • There's also this moment from "No Reason":
      Delia: Put some more fun in the world, a little "I AM STILL YOUNG!!!" in the world!
  • Summon Backup Dancers: BJ conjures up an ensemble of dancers during "That Beautiful Sound"; unsurprisingly, they're all just clones of himself.
    Betelgeuse: You know what would make this even more awesome?
    Lydia: What?
    Betelgeuse: MORE ME!!!
  • Take That!: BJ's brutal jab at a certain musical from the 1940s note 
    Betelgeuse: "The Maitlands: More Boring Than Brigadoon!" ...Yeah, I said it. Fuck Brigadoon!
    • Later performances would do a similar one against The Music Man, which makes sense as the show was forcibly evicted to make way for the latter's 2020 revival.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Lydia when Betelgeuse initially takes over the house. She spends three days just helping him prank people by scaring the crap out of them and making them think they're going to die, and is unfazed by the Maitlands' scolding on the matter.
  • Tempting Fate: Skye the girl scout has a whole number where she keeps bringing up how fragile her heart is and how it could cause her to literally die of fright, as she approaches the "creepy-looking house" that has just been taken over by BJ and Lydia. She lays it on so thick that it's hardly a surprise that she's inexplicably fine despite being scared shitless by the duo. Chalk it up to the Unspoken Plan Guarantee.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Charles's reaction to Delia calling in Otho to get rid of Betelgeuse.
    Delia: This is already the BEST exorcism I've ever been to!
    Charles: Oh lord.
  • Transforming Conforming: In The Musical, Beetlejuice's attempt to become human by marrying Lydia actually works... only for Lydia to immediately stab him now that he's mortal.
  • Triumphant Reprise: The closing number is a combination of "Jump in the Line" and a more upbeat version of "Dead Mom". In contrast to the original song being about Lydia lamenting her difficulty in handling the death of her mother, the reprise of "Dead Mom" instead has Lydia expressing her newfound ability to move on and enjoy life while still missing her mom.
  • Villain Song: Naturally, Betelgeuse has a few of them:
    • "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing", where he pops out for the first time and introduces the audience to "a show about death".
    • "Say My Name", in which he attempts to persuade Lydia into freeing him; like in the film, he fails to do so (at first).
    • "That Beautiful Sound" is a milder example, since it's not so much a Villain Song as it is a jovial duet/dance number with Lydia about the joys of scaring people and hearing their glorious screams. It is, however, followed by a Dark Reprise in which BJ hatches his plot to marry Lydia in order to come back to lifenote .
    • "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing" Part 3" is essentially a Dark Reprise of the first song, where Betelgeuse betrays Lydia and finally unveils his Evil Plan.
    • A cut song for Otho, "I Am Very Good At Running Cults," elaborates on his extremely dark background as a cult leader.
  • Warning Song: "What I Know Now" is basically an anti-suicide PSA, with Ms. Argentina and the recently deceased mourning the fact that they didn't live life to the fullest and encouraging Lydia to live life to the fullest while she still can.
  • We All Die Someday: "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing" is all about this, with Betelgeuse reminding the audience that they're going to die at some point. The chorus even says it in the lyrics: "oh, and full disclosure, it's a show about death!" It's also the central theme, and the source of the conflict with Lydia; she's so desperate to see her dead mother again that she'll do whatever Betelgeuse wants. The aesop at the end of the play is that all we can really do is make peace with death, and hold onto our memories of those who have passed on.
  • Wham Line: The moment Lydia summons Betelgeuse. Why is this a wham line? Because unlike the movie, it happens at the end of Act 1!
    Betelgeuse: Looks like we're not invisible anymore!
    (BJ and Lydia give the audience slasher smiles as the lights go out)
  • You Bastard!: Played for laughs right after "Ready Set, Not Yet"; the song ends with Adam and Barbara falling through the floor of their house and dying. When the song ends, the audience gives their applause, and Betelgeuse is surprised that they enjoyed watching the Maitlands die.
    Betelgeuse: [to the audience] Wow. Those people just died and you guys are clapping. You look like you're getting really comfy with the whole 'being dead' thing.


Video Example(s):


Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Be...

Lydia Deetz taunts Betelgeuse by almost saying his name three times, but changing the word at the last second.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / LastSecondWordSwap

Media sources: