Kerry Butler Leslie Kritzer

Kerry Butler & Leslie Kritzer Reflect on Their Journey with Beetlejuice

These leading ladies are two of the funniest and best belters on Broadway. Kerry Butler and Leslie Kritzer have starred in some of the biggest musicals over the last two decades. For the past few years they have been haunting Beetlejuice as Barbara Maitland and Delia Deetz, respectively.

The show, which opened April 25, 2019, at the Winter Garden Theatre, has been through the ringer — a two-year shutdown and an eviction. But the whole “being dead” thing? No way. It reopened on April 8 at the Marquis Theatre.

As the Broadway run comes to a close on January 8, 2023, Broadway Direct sat down with Butler and Kritzer to reminisce about their time in the show, from their favorite onstage moments to their biggest mishaps. Plus, their thoughts on how TikTok saved the show and canned plans to record it for a streaming platform.

Leslie Kritzer in Beetlejuice. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Leslie Kritzer in Beetlejuice. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Summarize your experience of being in Beetlejuice in a few words.

Leslie Kritzer: This is probably one of the best groups of people I’ve ever worked with. I always say what I’m going to miss about it is not the show itself, it’s the people … and, of course, the paycheck. Especially the young people in our show, they’re getting a very spoiled experience. It’s not always this close. Every 10 years, you’re lucky to get something like this.

Kerry Butler: I agree. You become a family with your Broadway cast. I think the years of my life are marked by those people. I always say: Years from now, if you are going through a hard time and you need someone, we are family now so you can call me and I will do whatever I can to help you.

What was your favorite onstage moment?

KB: Mine is during “Fright of Their Lives” with Alex [Brightman] and David [Josefsberg]. We’re learning how to be ghosts. We’re doing the same exact thing every single night, but that feels the most alive. During “Creepy Old Guy,” me and Leslie have a really crazy time.

LK: I feel like it’s our own sitcom for about 10 seconds. The sitcom I’ve always wanted to be on.

KB: From the game show to the end of the show, me and Leslie are constantly checking in with each other. Behind the audience’s back, sometimes she’ll become Jennifer Coolidge for me.

LK: Totally. Because we’re obsessed with White Lotus.

Do you do Jennifer Coolidge impressions?

KB: She does everybody.

LK: I make Kerry laugh at certain points in the show because I’m over my own jokes. All I have left is trying to break Kerry during certain moments. And then try not to make Adam [Dannheisser] distracted by that. We have this moment at the end where we’re trying to creep up on Beetlejuice during “Creepy Old Guy” because we’re all trying to scam him. And, literally, it’s like the funniest thing to me. It’s like the funniest part of the show that no one will ever understand, see, or really notice.

KB: We always improv during that part, just with each other.

LK: But it’s all mouthing. We can’t say the words.

If you spoke, would your mics pick it up?

LK: No, because our mics are not on. If I screamed, maybe.

KB: We’re scamming Beetlejuice, so she can’t yell it anyway. We’re being secretive about what’s going to happen with Beetlejuice.

LK: We have our own show going on half of the show that the audience will never be privy to. If you talk to every single person in every single show, for sure, everyone has their own show within their show.

Elizabeth Teeter, David Josefsberg, and Kerry Butler in Beetlejuice. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Elizabeth Teeter, David Josefsberg, and Kerry Butler in Beetlejuice. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

What was the funniest mishap you’ve had?

KB: I’m doing “Barbara 2.0.” I just breathed in something. I needed to cough. I start getting to where I can’t even speak the words. So then me and David go in for the kiss and I just cough into his shoulder. Luckily, I didn’t have COVID. Can you imagine, since I was coughing all over him? My mic was on at first so the [sound board] heard me coughing. I was able to kind of squeak out the end of those last few notes. But that was the worst. David saw the panic in my eyes.

LK: At the end of the show, Beetlejuice is saying goodbye to all the main characters. I’m the third to last one. This little girl in the third row says “Leave her alone” or “Hands off” or something. We were so shocked, because it’s a funny moment. [Beetlejuice is] not attacking me. We both looked out. I always let him take the lead, because I’m not going to do it first. He goes, “You’re right.” It was so hilarious. We had never had anything like that happen. So he responded in a very respectful way as Beetlejuice. And then we continued back in. But things like that, when people yell out things in the audience and we have a choice whether to respond or not. It was a very cool moment because we can break the fourth wall at times. He can all the time.

KB: We’re not encouraging people to yell things out.

Worst flubbed line?

LK: Worse flubbed line? It wasn’t even me. It was Alex.

KB: It was in the opening number.

LK: It was nonsense. It was just nonsense. He couldn’t get the words and he said, “Java, Java, Java, Java.”

Do you agree with that, Kerry?

KB: Yes

All right. Can’t wait for Alex to read that. Beetlejuice was set to close at the Winter Garden Theatre in June of 2020. With the Broadway shutdown, did you think you would never do the show again?

KB: There were talks that we were not going to be completely closing in June back in March. We thought we were definitely going to have another life. We were such a big hit then. We were pretty sure we weren’t going to be closing for good.

LK: Yeah, we were hearing theatre names. The Marquis was already at that time attached to the Britney [Spears] musical [Once Upon a One More Time]. The show was already in the works to move in. They built it to sort of fit into the Marquis. But our show is so big, so it’s tricky to see which theatre [would work]. I think I can see this now. We had plans to do the capture.

What does that mean?

KB: They were making a movie of it.

LK: We were making a film of it like they did with Diana and like they did with Come From Away. The dates were set. We had gotten offered those dates in April because I was working my vacation around it.

KB: They were already there planning the shots.

In a sentence, what was the most important thing you did during the shutdown?

LK: The most important thing was I covered the Ghislaine Maxwell trial. For me personally, that was something that was unexpected.

KB: Can I say two things? Getting to be with my family all the time. And also teaching. I felt I was really putting good things into the world while we were shut down.

Leslie Kritzer and the original Broadway cast of Beetlejuice. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Leslie Kritzer and the original Broadway cast of Beetlejuice. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

What, if anything, changed upon returning? I always wanted to ask you this, Leslie, about how you don’t also play Miss Argentina anymore.

LK: We’re all different now after coming back. It felt like we’re different. We approach life differently. I had done it. It’s a lot of work. And I was cool with just doing Delia. I wasn’t meant to be Miss Argentina in the first place. I was fine with it. I’m on the album. I’ve gotten everything that I want to get out of doing that part. It’s not like I’m getting more to do it. I’d rather sit back and enjoy just doing Delia — have a lighter load. Now the good thing is, in future productions, someone in the ensemble will be featured in that part. It’s a win-win for everybody.

KB: The woman who was supposed to do it initially got sick.

LK: Also, it wasn’t there.

KB: It was a very late addition to the show.

LK: Actually, to the point where they didn’t know if they were gonna keep it there or not. So, through a series of events, I wound up doing it and we made it work. It was great. I got to bring out my Latin roots, which was very fun and my family very much enjoyed it. I thought about my mom a lot during that time. I got to sort of showcase her and what I have on that side of my family.

KB: The only thing that changed was, we were more grounded. The Maitland journey felt much more real, being stuck in your attic. The show is about death and life. All those things felt so much more relevant, coming back.

LK: It felt like a new show. Because we felt like different people.

Is there anything you want to say about the huge fan base, from the fan art to TikTok?

KB: We love them and for sure they saved our show. Definitely TikTok was a huge part of our show. We love that people get dressed up. It makes us smile seeing all those people out there in costume.

Do you really believe the popularity on TikTok saved the show?

KB: One hundred percent.

LK: Presley Ryan definitely had a major impact. She started that. She’s a young person who was tapped into that and people loved it. They were like, “Oh my god, I saw it on TikTok.” The fan art was happening way before that. People were freaking out over our album, and then once TikTok got a hold of it — forget it.

KB: TikTok helped people find our album too. And it still does. People just know us from seeing a TikTok that somebody made with a song and then they become obsessed with our show.

Kerry Butler in Beetlejuice. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Kerry Butler in Beetlejuice. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Both of you obviously have had killer roles on Broadway. But what would be the next dream role for you?

LK: I don’t have one because the ones that have been my favorite I never knew were coming. In terms of revivals, obviously, I’d love to play Mrs. Lovett. The roles that are meant to come always come at the right time in my life for a reason I never see coming. What’s meant to be will be and I like being surprised now. Back in the day, I was devastated when Funny Girl didn’t happen. And as you get older, you realize it wasn’t supposed to and that’s OK. Lea [Michele]’s killing it and it’s great. She’s making a lot of people happy and people have jobs. Bravo.

KB: If I could secret something I would not choose a Broadway show. I would choose a half-hour three-camera sitcom with Leslie. Three-camera is like theater because it’s like you’re doing a play every night in front of a live audience. A comedy.

LK: I thought we were just talking about the theater. But TV? Forget it. Come on.

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