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[Herald Review] It’s show time for ‘Beetlejuice’

A scene from the musical “Beetlejuice” (CJ ENM)
A scene from the musical “Beetlejuice” (CJ ENM)

After some hiccups, the curtain has finally been raised on the Seoul-run of the licensed musical “Beetlejuice.”

The Korean-language musical opened Tuesday at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul.

The 150-minute musical was initially set to open June 18, but was twice delayed due to “technical issues.” Even on the opening day, the show started 15 minutes later than scheduled due to a ticketing system malfunction.

On stage, however, “Beetlejuice” was a hilarious and a jaw-dropping show.

Based on the iconic 1988 Tim Burton film of the same title, the musical tells the story of Beetlejuice, who has lived in the Netherworld for 9.8 billion years all by himself.

Wishing to befriend Adam and Barbara who recently died in an accident, he tries to scare away unwelcome new inhabitants -- a family from New York -- at their house.

Lydia, the daughter of the New York family, is a girl who is obsessed about death after her mother’s passing. She wants to go to the other world to meet her mother. She can see ghosts, including Adam, Barbara and Beetlejuice.

Beetlejuice, who wants the new inhabitants to leave the house, and Lydia, who wants to go back to New York, agree to help each other, haunting the house.

Celebrated stage actor Jung Sung-hwa played the green-haired Beetlejuice on the opening day, making the audience break into laughter across the hall.

Throughout the show, Beetlejuice -- a rude, vulgar yet humorous character -- talked to the audience like a stand-up comedian, making it impossible not to concentrate on the show.

Veteran actor Yu Jun-sang plays the role along with Jung.
 
A scene from the musical “Beetlejuice” (CJ ENM)
A scene from the musical “Beetlejuice” (CJ ENM)

Unlike the original film, the musical portrays Lydia as a more independent character who manipulates Beetlejuice in pursuing her own agenda and decides how the story will proceed.

Up-and-coming actor Hong Na-hyeon played Lydia Tuesday. Hong gave a powerful performance along with veteran actors playing the iconic Beetlejuice character. Actor Jang Min-jae also plays the role.

The original sandworm from the film is reimagined onstage as a puppet popping out here and there.

The show gives off an almost circus-like set-up with eye-popping stage settings and Beetlejuice welcoming audience members into his story.

Though a fantasy musical, the show also made an effort to relate to reality, slipping in references to medical-grade KF-94 masks and hand sanitizers, with lines such as “I want to stop being tested for the coronavirus.”

The show, after all, speaks about life through death, what life is like and how one should live.

The licensed musical, the first official showing outside of Broadway, was co-produced by CJ ENM and Sejong Center.

The musical runs until Aug. 7 at the Sejong Center.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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