Alex Brightman, Elizabeth Teeter Beetlejuice

Alex Brightman & Elizabeth Teeter on Breathing New Life into Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice is back and deader than ever.

After originally opening at the Winter Garden Theatre April 25, 2019, the Tony-nominated musical was resurrected nearly three years later at the Marquis Theatre. Tony nominee Alex Brightman reprised his role as the titular character, with Elizabeth Teeter taking on the role of Lydia Deetz. Transferring theatres after opening is an uncommon move for a Broadway show, but so were the circumstances of a two-year industry shutdown due to a global pandemic.

Broadway Direct sat down with the stars to catch up on what (after)life has been like at the new haunt.

What was your familiarity with Beetlejuice before being cast in the stage production?

 Alex Brightman: Growing up, I liked Tim Burton in general. I liked that genre of horror movies and his whole aesthetic.

Elizabeth Teeter: Same. I do love Tim Burton. I’ve always loved creepy stuff. I’ve read Coraline a million times and watched Edward Scissorhands. I saw [Beetlejuice on Broadway] before I was in it.

What has it felt like, transferring into a new theatre?

 Brightman: It has felt like a new show altogether. Elizabeth has inspired a lot of change, not just with me, but in the entire company — a lot of freedom to be silly and to find new stuff. It’s a whole new energy. It’s a new Lydia. It’s a new character. We have this sort of new engine in the show. I think it would have been weird to come back to the Winter Garden after [the pandemic]. It would’ve felt like a relic, in a weird way. We got a fresh start.

Teeter: I’m with the best group of people that I could ask for. It felt like we were all putting a new show together. We all sat down and did table work again. I think that really helped, getting to have that rehearsal process. I wouldn’t get that [if the show had stayed] at the other theatre. Also, it was really cool to be a part of the conversations after the pandemic — what the show is now and how it’s different.

Speaking of postpandemic changes: The writing team has often changed lyrics to the opening number, “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing,” for televised performances, like the Tony Awards and the Today show. Did that happen for this new version?

 Brightman: When we first started rehearsing, there were a couple of pages that slightly mentioned it. I, among others, were like, No, because you’re coming to the theatre to forget your life. And I don’t think we really take people away; we’re very much reminding people that life is precious, but the last thing we needed after three years was to remember the pandemic that’s still happening.

Teeter: I feel like coming back to the theatre in general, at least for me, has a different meaning to it because we were away for so long. Even just talking about death is so different after those two years of darkness. I play a young character who feels really lost and alone, and I think a lot of people felt that way, especially over the pandemic. Obviously, people can relate to that at any time in their life, but maybe particularly coming back after such a dark time.

Brightman: I will say, though, I think the show feels evergreen, in a weird way. People were really ready to laugh it up. Right [when we came back], some of the darkest stuff in our show got the biggest laughs, which I think speaks to what we wanted after a traumatic event. Like, yes, the chapter is still there and the door is still open, and you can look back, but sometimes you need to flip the page.

Has the time away and the new theatre changed your interactions with the audience?

Brightman: Big time. In the Winter Garden, it was so spread-out and flat. I could really only see about two rows deep before it got nothingness. With the Marquis, it’s a raked audience, so I get much more play with who’s there and how many people I can make eyes with. As a comedian, I think that a raked audience is better for comedy. It sort of flies out perfectly.

Teeter: I’ve gotten so many messages that are like, “Oh my gosh, I lost someone,” or “I was going through a really dark time. I didn’t know how much I needed this. I came and laughed and cried and laughed again. It was so weirdly therapeutic.”

Brightman: Some of the big success of this new run is the heart-forwardness of this Lydia. You come on board with her Lydia a little quicker, so that by the end, you’re desperate for her to have a win. When I hear the audiences [from backstage], you can really feel them get on board real quick. I think that that’s what really makes the show different this time around.

Do you feel that as you’re performing, Elizabeth? Is there a moment when you can feel the audience drop in with you?

Teeter: I have a scene with the Maitlands where it breathes a little bit and we don’t have to rush. You get to see a little more of her nerdy and caring side, which the audience hasn’t really seen yet in the show. I feel like I can tell when the audience is like, “Oh, this is just a girl who’s trying to get through this, and she’s awkward and weird.”

Is there a moment or a scene between your two characters that you look forward to every night? Do you break character often?

Brightman: I’m very hard to break, because I’m trying to break you.

Teeter: I think what kills him is knowing he’s about to break me.

Brightman: One hundred percent. If I know I almost have Teeter, if I get that little corner smirk, I laugh. But genuinely, we have created a funny offstage chemistry that we bring onto the stage with us. It’s really comforting, but it also has that real veil of danger, because if it gets too comfortable it becomes just for us, you know?

Teeter: We’ve been pretty good about keeping in line, though.

Brightman: There’s one scene where she’s about to jump off the roof. And I ask her, “What brings you to the roof?” And she screams, “I’m going to jump!” I scream, “No!” Then I backtrack and [casually] say, “I mean, no.” One night after she said “I’m going to jump!” I did this huge gesture and it made her wait for it. Then rolled it back and said, “No.” She went cross‑eyed. Our music director lost it too.

Teeter: I think there’s a little bit of leeway in “Say My Name,” because [our characters are] trying to one-up each other and trying to get the upper hand. We’re doing that already, but it works within the songs too.

Brightman: We have also started curating special bows every single night. Every show has a different theme or a different move. Now we’re to the point where Elizabeth put it on Instagram to ask for fan suggestions. Last night we did a full-blown ballet bow. We did one where we pretended to be in a fight.

Teeter: We’ve done the West Side Story snaps.

Brightman: We did The Wizard of Oz horribly.

Teeter: A lot of people on Instagram said we should do the Dirty Dancing lift.

Brightman: Can you imagine Elizabeth lifting me up?

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