ABOVE PHOTO: A scene from “Beetlejuice The Musical”from left: Britney Coleman (Barbara), Will Burton (Adam), Isabella Esler (Lydia) and Justin Collette (Beetlejuice). Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2022
By Kharisma McIlwaine
“Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice…” one shouldn’t finish that phrase unless they welcome what follows.
The 1988 movie “Beetlejuice” became an instant cult classic and remains a fan favorite decades later. It tells the story of Barbara and Adam Maitland, a recently deceased couple seeking to regain control of their old house by haunting its new inhabitants, the Deetzes. After many failed attempts at scaring the Deetzes away, the Maitlands enlist the help of the mischievous spirit Beetlejuice to help them — then shenanigans ensue.
The story of “Beetlejuice” was adapted for theater in 2018, with a musical premiere at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. “Beetlejuice The Musical” made its Broadway debut at the Winter Garden Theatre on April 25, 2019. Due to the pandemic, the show closed in March 2020, and reopened on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre in April 2022, before completing its Broadway run in January 2023. Now “Beetlejuice The Musical” is back, better than ever, and on the road for a U.S. national tour. Ann Arbor, Michigan native Britney Coleman plays Barbara Maitland in the national tour. Coleman spoke with the SUN about her role as Barbara and her excitement about being part of this cast.
Because of her family’s musical pedigree, Coleman had a natural affinity for this art form.
“My dad’s side of the family is very musical,” she said. “He’s one of 10, and everybody grew up in the church playing different instruments. My dad was the drummer, so he kind of introduced that into my life.”
Coleman’s love for music was further nourished by a creative elementary school teacher, who took an unorthodox approach to music classes.
“I had a very ambitious elementary school teacher who came to our school and decided to turn our music classes into 45-minute versions of large musicals,” she said. “We did “The Secret Garden,” “West Side Story,” [and] a little Gilbert and Sullivan with “Pirates of Penzance” — those were the big three when I was there.”
Coleman found her tribe and community in theater as she approached her high school and college years. She went on to attend the University of Michigan, where she majored in musical theater.
“Growing up there, I didn’t realize how good of a school it was, because I was there and I didn’t have any context,” Coleman said. “After I got in, I started getting calls from current students in the program and facility, and said, ‘This might actually be a really good fit, and my parents would love it if I was just down the street,’ so that worked out really well.”
“A lot of these programs have what’s called “showcases,” where they basically put together very short snippets of performances from each senior student that’s graduating, and they do this show for agents both wherever the school is located and in New York. So, we basically got ushered right into the city after graduating.”
After graduation, Coleman went on to land roles in several Broadway musicals including “Tootsie,” ”Sunset Boulevard,” and “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”
“I got lucky,” she said. “I got linked up with a really wonderful agent — I’ve been with them since. They got me a lot of wonderful auditions and I got my union card just a couple of months after that.”
Coleman, who is a fan of the original “Beetlejuice” movie, is excited to now be part of the cast of “ Beetlejuice The Musical.”
“I was doing a show on Broadway that was almost exactly on the same schedule as “Beetlejuice” [the musical] when it first opened pre-pandemic,” Coleman said. “We were doing these ticket exchanges, and I went with almost the entire cast of my show. We didn’t know what to expect… a lot of the reviews were mixed. We all said, ‘We’re fans of the movie — let’s see what happens.’ We all walked away feeling so joyous.”
“It’s been wonderful (now being part of the show),” Coleman added. “We’ve had a lot of fans from both. The Broadway show had this really crazy fandom surrounding it and taking it across the country, we’re also getting fans of the movie. A lot of people are getting the direct movie references that we have in the show and discovering this new way that we’ve kind of treated the movie material to make it into a fun, really heartwarming musical. There’s so much to take away from the musical, it’s really wild. The support has been absolutely wonderful.”
The national tour of “Beetlejuice The Musical” combines a lot of the elements that fans loved from the movie and the Broadway production to create an all-around incredible experience.
“It’s such a fun, good time at the show,” Coleman said. “Beetlejuice is basically a stand-up comedian for most of the show. Then our Lydia character, the heroine of our story — she is just so fierce and there are some gut-wrenching moments. It’s full of so much heart.”
In the tour, Coleman plays Barbara Maitland, one half of the couple the Beetlejuice story is centered around.
“I play Barbara Maitland,” she said. “This is the character played by Geena Davis in the movie. You meet the Maitlands. They are setting up this house that they’ve been building from the ground up. Within the first few minutes of meeting them, they die. They do it one way in the movie, one way on Broadway, and we do it a different way on the tour. That’s how we get sent into this world where this Beetlejuice demon exists, who is also in the house and is just trying to become alive and get back to the world. He’s able to kind of trick Lydia into doing that. So, Lydia and her family move into the house right after the Maitlands die and she’s able to see the Maitlands. The three of us kind of go on this wild journey with Beetlejuice together.”
“Beetlejuice The Musical” is filled with iconic lines and musical numbers. Coleman shared one of her personal favorite moments in the show.
“We have a song called “Fright of Their Lives” that’s basically like a training montage a la 1988 “Karate Kid” style, where Beetlejuice is trying to teach the Maitlands how to scare people,” she said. “The Maitlands have never done this before and they’re quite bad at it, but they’re having so much fun. Beetlejuice is beside himself, he’s so tired of them by the end of the number. It’s so fun, and it’s slightly different every night, because there is an improv aspect to it. It feels like a rock show, and we have this really awesome band.”
“It’s not very often that you’re part of a show that can basically sell itself,” Coleman added. “A lot of that is because of the fans. It’s great that every time we walk out on stage or go to a new place, there’s always going to be people who are hooting and hollering and that’s really special, because not every show gets that. The support is awesome!”
Britney Coleman will also take on the lead role of Bobbie in the new North American tour of Company, which will be part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus & Shubert Organization’s 23/24 Broadway Series, playing at the Forrest Theatre from November 27 through December 10.
In the interim, be sure to follow Britney on IG @britneycoleman and visit her website at: www.britneycoleman.com.
“Beetlejuice The Musical” will be at the Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus from May 30 through June 11. For more details on tickets and showtimes, visit: www.kimmelculturalcampus.org.
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