1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 87

The Beetlejuice Musical Soundtrack, by the Original Broadway Cast
Suggested by Lea Syme

Musical versions of classic comedies are all the rage, it seems.

There’s Heathers, Pretty Woman, and School of Rock, and that’s just for starters. High Fidelity, Moulin Rouge, Rock of Ages, even The Toxic Avenger. Groundhog Day. Little Shop of Horrors. There is definitely a rich seam of options in this particular genre.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing the original Broadway cast recording of Legally Blonde: The Musical. While I quite enjoy Musical Theatre, I’m not a particular fan of Legally Blonde, and the OBC Recording pitched a score of 5/10 on the day.

Today, it’s the turn of Beetlejuice the Musical. And, again, I’ve a limited memory of the movie. Michael Keaton, striped suit, something about haunting? I know this is a cult film, as is Legally Blonde, but watching it back in the day never quite slathered my muffin. Will the soundtrack of the musical hit the sweet spot.

Things start strongly after a standard prologue, with the excellent The Whole “Being Dead” Thing. This is where we first hear the actor playing Beetlejuice, and thankfully it’s quite apparent that we are in safe comedic hands. As you’d expect, his gravelly voice is sassy and expressive, and his comic timing is flawless. It’s a strong, characterful performance, even if he does channel Krusty the Clown at salient points.

The music is jazzy, and comedically ominous. It jangles and spangles and harrumphs in a grand cantina band style, reminding me of the underworld sound of Nightmare Before Christmas. There’s a hell of a lot of Danny Elfman here, as you’d expect, and that signature sound draws you straight into the gothic fun of the film with ease.

Lyrically, the script is deft and adult, and laugh out loud funny on more than one occasion. The story of the film shines through, and although I’m not enshrined in the details I did follow for a good forty minutes. But, as with Legally Blonde, I did lose a little focus nearer the end, which I now think is likely an aspect of the medium rather than a failing on my part. Musicals have an ebb and flow that’s well charted, and lulls in act 2 are commonplace.

Musical Theatre is often accused of being rather contrived and ridiculous as a concept, with seemingly normal people able to break into song and dance at the drop of a hat. Thankfully, the character of Beetlejuice breaks the fourth wall so often, to such great effect, he may as well be Deadpool. This is a definite boon, as highlighting the absurdity draws us in and makes us accomplices rather than mere witnesses.

My favourite track is the aforementioned The Whole “Being Dead” Thing, although I nearly coughed up a lung at Girl Scout. I’ll leave you to check that out yourself if you’re interested as to why.

I enjoyed Beetlejuice immensely. I give it a strong 7/10, and will happily say its name three times into my Alexa in order to summon it again.

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