Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 29, 2024

Review: The Bushnell, “Beetlejuice”

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
May 28-June 2, 2024
by Jarice Hanson

If you think the stage production of “Beetlejuice” will be faithful to the popular film, keep an open mind and throw yourself into a fun-filled performance at The Bushnell. There are similarities between the film and the musical—enough to please the full house, many of whom were obviously fans of the original film, but seeing the story unfold on stage is a special treat. The story may be a bit silly and a bit of fluff, but the very talented cast of this touring production and their team put on a show that is entertaining, and just plain fun. Visually, there are more than a few moments that have a “Wow!” factor.

Justin Collette in the lead role is fabulously funny and knows how to work with a live audience to involve them in the performance. He charms and repulses the audience with his antics. Collette is a master of working with his voice. He can growl one minute, and shift to a full-chested belt the next.
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Playing the role of the young Lydia, Isabella Esler gives her music a beautiful voice and
impressive range. While her bio indicates that she is making her professional debut in this company, it also states that she “recently graduated high school.” Much of this show rests on her shoulders, and if this production is any indication of her ability to work on the professional stage, she has a bright future.
While the six principal performers have excellent voices and wonderful stage presence, the large ensemble of 20 performers work energetically in a wide variety of singing, dancing, and comic roles. 

Director Alex Timbers, Choreographer Connor Gallagher, and Scenic Designer David Korins have teamed up to keep the action flowing. Different parts of the stage seem to transform within seconds, an homage to the play’s filmic origin. William Ivey Long’s brilliant costumes set characters apart from the colorful, sometimes off-perspective backdrops.

The music and lyrics by Eddie Perfect (yes, that is his name) are delightful and whimsical, but unfortunately the Bushnell’s sound system can be tricky.  Collette easily overcomes the problem by careful articulation of words and lyrics, but some lyrics and lines by other performers are muffled or lost. 

“Beetlejuice” is not one of those plays that gives those in attendance a lot to think about, but it does raise spirits, draw the audience into a special world of make believe, and allows everyone to just relax and enjoy a good story. There were many children in the audience so perhaps it’s no longer necessary to sound this “warning” but there are words, gestures, and a few lines that might give a parent pause before bringing the very young to the theater for "Beetlejuice".  At the same time, there are many more moments of magic and folly that will entertain children of all ages.