As “Beetlejuice” gears up for its Broadway opening, the new musical’s creators have spent a lot of time adjusting the dial on the show’s raucous, supernatural comedy, pinpointing just the right balance of edginess and emotion. But to hear them tell it, there’s one thing that’ll always be shocking.
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“The nice thing is that of all the taboos, death is still the biggest, and also the one that transcends politics most of all,” said the show’s co-book writer Scott Brown on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. In the episode, he and his co-creators, songwriter Eddie Perfect and co-book writer Anthony King, detailed the work they’ve done on the piece since its tryout run in Washington, D.C., in order to make the show’s heart as strong as its humor.
“It’s a comedy, kind of a dark comedy,” explained Perfect, also the composer of this season’s “King Kong.” “And we learned what audiences feel comfortable laughing at, what they feel uncomfortable laughing at, and what we feel comfortable making the audience uncomfortable about.”
“The structure of the show is basically the same [as it was in D.C.],” added King, also a TV writer-producer (“Broad City,” “Silicon Valley”). “A lot of the emotional content that was in the show was buried at a level that the audience wasn’t aware it was there. … We did an enormous amount of rewriting, and a lot of it was just unearthing that and bringing it to the surface more.”
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“D.C. was kind of like the midnight movie version of ‘Beetlejuice,'” cracked Brown (“Castle Rock”).
The creators also reveal what other material inspired them, including early drafts of the screenplay and the 1990s animated series based on the film; explain how they went about making the show more broadly accessible; and fondly remember the cut song they wrote for a dead boy band.
New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunes, Stitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.