“Beetlejuice” Proves, Again, It Is Beloved By Teens

The show had its Louisville debut in May

Jul 3, 2024 at 10:22 pm
Will Burton (Adam), Megan McGinnis (Barbara), Isabella Esler (Lydia) and Justin Collette (Beetlejuice) in the touring production of “Beetlejuice” the musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy. Courtesy PNC Broadway in Louisville.
Will Burton (Adam), Megan McGinnis (Barbara), Isabella Esler (Lydia) and Justin Collette (Beetlejuice) in the touring production of “Beetlejuice” the musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy. Courtesy PNC Broadway in Louisville.

While not always the darling of critics, the musical “Beetlejuice” has found a solid fan base among gen Z who, as many articles have noted, have been prominent audience members of since its Broadway premiere and throughout its touring performances. Many show up in costumes reflecting some of the story’s main characters à la cosplay. Some come as the teenager Lydia decked out in black frill, while others come in the black and white stripes like the main ghost of the show.

The costumes and the buzz were certainly part of the spectacle at the May 14 opening night of “Beetlejuice” with PNC Broadway in Louisville. 

Teenagers seemed to turn up in droves. Among them were two from Arts Angle Vantage who were ready to watch and, with notebooks in hand, begin work on their reviews. 

They found quite a bit of delight examining what had been spun as a sinister story, as you can read here.

As always, big thanks to LEO Weekly and Editor Erica Rucker for helping us elevate youth voices and the arts by practicing the values of collaborative journalism and criticism.

— Elizabeth Kramer, Executive Director, Arts Angle Vantage

“Beetlejuice” Delivers a Spooky Spectacle That’s Hilarious and Heartfelt

By Amelia Dykes | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter

Our Lady of Providence High School, Class of 2026

Before the musical “Beetlejuice” even started, patrons could get a sense of the show when they walked into the Kentucky Center for the Arts, where it ran from May 14 through 19. There was dark music and bright lights with a retro sign reading “Betelgeuse,” another name for the superstar ghost. Soon after, the curtain rose to “Beetlejuice” with its slick jokes that make you giggle till your lungs ache.

Based on Tim Burton’s 1988 movie “Beetlejuice,” this musical version premiered on Broadway in 2019. Although the musical contained some crass language, it gave those one-liners more zing and humor.

Isabella Esler (Lydia) and Justin Collette (Beetlejuice) in the touring production of “Beetlejuice.” Photo by Matthew Murphy. Courtesy PNC Broadway in Louisville.

Beetlejuice, played by Justin Collette, stood out, carrying much of the comedy from the opening number, "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing." He frequently broke the fourth wall, making you feel like you were being pulled into the show. He spoke to individuals as well as the whole audience with lines like “powerless, like a gay Republican,” and, “All I want is for someone, anyone to look my way and say, ‘Hey. I see you. I accept you. And I fear for my safety around you.’” Collette executes everything perfectly and brings “the whole being dead thing” to life.

Other characters also had funny lines. One of the funniest from Delia (Sarah Litzsinger) was, “Sadness is like a third nipple, it’s a part of you but no one wants to see it.”    

The wild and crazy mischief extended to the puppets in one of the best shows I have seen on stage. For example, Beetlejuice turns a book into a homemade puppet, and it becomes a high point of a joke. 

Other magic followed as “Beetlejuice” had many impressive sets, lighting details, and right-on-cue sound effects. Under the direction of Alex Timbers with choreography by Connor Gallagher, it all added up to expertly directed chaos. The choreography paired with the lighting created a crazy vibe that boosted the pandemonium.

Sarah Litzsinger (Delia) and Jesse Sharp (Charles) in the touring production of "Beetlejuice." Photo by Matthew Murphy. Courtesy PNC Broadway in Louisville.


Kenneth Posner’s lighting design and David Korins’s scenic design all worked in harmony with this directed chaos. During the famous dinner party scene, their skills took center stage in the number “That Beautiful Sound.” 

“Beetlejuice” also showcased clever and beautifully written songs. At the show's beginning, Lydia (Isabella Esler) and Beetlejuice have two very different types of songs. Beetlejuice sings in a more ska and rock style. Lydia goes for ballads and more emo-leaning songs. I was impressed with Esler’s performance because she is fairly new to her career and fresh out of high school. And overall, the vocals from everyone were clean and clear.

Just because the show was full of booming laughter and sometimes bawdy doesn’t mean the ending couldn't be wholesome. “Beetlejuice” presented a notable ending with an equal amount of wholesomeness and humor. That ending was the perfect goodbye for such an icon.


Amelia Dykes (she/her), a rising junior at Our Lady of Providence High School, is on the girls soccer team and manages the track team. She also is a singer at Bella Voce and participates in Providence’s theater arts program. She wants to share the magic of live theater with as many people as possible.

Hilarious and relatable, “Beetlejuice” mines facets of grief with sweet twist on family story

By Jo Lowden | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter

Homeschool Student, Class of 2025

“Beetlejuice,” originally a 1988 film starring Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder, made its musical Broadway debut in 2019, and since then has seen many shows in many different places. Premiering in Louisville on May 14 at The Kentucky Center for the Arts, the musical was filled with unlimited humor, sass and, of course, death. 

The story is about a teenage girl named Lydia (Isabella Esler) mourning for her “Dead Mom” when she, her father, Charles (Jesse Sharp), and her “life coach” (and Charles’ secret girlfriend), Delia (Sarah Litzsinger), move into a recently vacated home. This home was not left but taken from the cold dead hands of Barbara (Lexie Dorsett Sharp) and her husband, Adam (Will Burton), after an electrical accident. That was the doing of the show's ghostly co-host Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse (Justin Collette), who uses Barbara and Adam as a ploy to get Lydia to bring him back to life by being his “underage bride.”


Isabella Esler (Lydia), Will Burton (Adam) and Megan McGinnis (Barbara) in the touring production of "Beetlejuice." Photo by Dan Norman. Courtesy PNC Broadway in Louisville.

Collette’s Beetlejuice was highly funny and relatable as a pan-icon showing his love has no limits to gender. (I say this as a pansexual person.) Collette’s stage work left everyone in the audience laughing loudly — from his cheeky dialogue, sexual innuendos and real-world jokes. With talks of gay Republicans, orgies, and sad puppet shows, this musical is very comedy focused. This all made the show much more entertaining.

The musical also stayed close to the movie's theme, keeping iconic scenes like the party with “The Banana Boat Song.” But it also changed the story enough to make improvements such as having Delia being a life coach instead of just a rich, spoiled socialite. It showed more of the family dynamic and more love, especially between Lydia and Charles. While the movie seemed to present a family at the end, this musical showed the evolution of their daughter-father relationship and how much Charles truly loved his daughter. 

This musical also had a good amount of dialogue as opposed to other musicals thin on plot in order to include more songs. Here, playwrights Scott Brown and Anthony King weren’t afraid to have a good chunk of dialogue. That added more detail to the story and improved the plot than was present in the movie. While the movie focused on the story of Barbara and Adam, the musical focused on Lydia and her grief over her mother’s passing. That combination created a better story.

The music in “Beetlejuice” was the strongest aspect. Favorites included “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing,” “Dead Mom” and “Say My Name.” These were powerful songs, especially some in the musical’s first half. “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing,” the musical’s second song, is sung by Beetlejuice to the audience as the show’s introduction and is about death itself. It adds more comedy to the musical, changes the pace quickly, and shows Beetlejuice's multiple sides. The show’s sixth song, “Dead Mom,” sung by Lydia, is quite the power ballad. Lydia tries to connect to her mom, begging for a sign that she is still watching her. The vocals are powerful, especially for Isabella Esler’s professional touring debut. Later in the show, “Say My Name,” sung by Beetlejuice and Lydia, has Beetlejuice trying to convince Lydia not to jump from the roof to escape her problems. Instead, he wants her to say his name three times and threatens to make her dad suffer. Both perform amazing vocals with real chemistry in their exchange that shows the dynamics of their relationship.


Justin Collette (Beetlejuice) and the touring company of “Beetlejuice.” Photo by Matthew Murphy. Courtesy PNC Broadway in Louisville.

The fantastical and amazing sets showed spunk while also being somewhat realistic. All of them were surprisingly detailed and could change quickly. There were many different versions of the house, all very different but beautifully strange in their own way.

Connor Gallagher’s choreography was fantastic, but particularly in “Day-O.” The possession scene was similar to the that of the film, but more actors were added to it, making the scene more interesting and funnier. I also loved the choreography for “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing” with Beetlejuice’s several broken ukuleles and the ensemble’s magnificent dancing in funeral attire with umbrellas.

This musical feels like a show about death, but it is so powerful because it closely reflects the real experiences of being a teenager in how it talks about grief. For teenagers, grief is a very common emotion — from experiences involving parents to grandparents and even friends. But not all grief is about death. Grief involves the ending of friendships or moving away from someone close. It can be sparked by parents getting divorced. But it is all normal. These are typical experience all teens feel — just not talked about much.

“Beetlejuice” shows that there is nothing wrong with being a little strange and unusual and that everyone is a little different. That’s not bad and you can really find your people by being yourself.



Jo Lowden (he/they), a rising homeschooled junior in Meade County, is a youth leader at Louisville Youth Group and their local library. He also is active in the process of creating a local LGBTQ group. He is passionate about all things involving mental health and queerness, especially for teens and young adults. Currently, Jo is on track to complete high school at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College for dual credit over the next two years. With sights set on college, he aims to study psychology and pursue a career as a therapist.