On Stage: You don’t have to say it three times, ‘Beetlejuice’ comes to Philly

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


“Beetlejuice” is a lot of different things.

Most obviously, it is a 1988 American fantasy horror comedy film directed by Tim Burton and starring Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, and Michael Keaton as the titular character.

A sequel was officially announced two weeks ago with a theatrical release date set for September 6, 2024.

“Beetlejuice” is also an animated television series that ran for four seasons on CBS and Fox. “Beetlejuice” was also the action hero in a series of video games in the early 1990s.

Most relevantly, “Beetlejuice” is a Broadway musical that is now out on a National Tour – a tour that will touch down in Philadelphia from May 30-June 11 at the Academy of Music as part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Broadway Series.

The plot revolves around a recently deceased couple – Barbara and Adam Maitland — who, as ghosts haunting their former home, contact Beetlejuice, an obnoxious and devious “bio-exorcist” from the Netherworld, to scare away the house’s new inhabitants.

“Beetlejuice” won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and three Saturn Awards: Best Horror Film, Best Makeup, and Best Supporting Actress for Sylvia Sidney. The film’s success spawned an animated television series, video games, and a 2018 stage musical.

In 2016, work began on a Broadway stage musical adaptation of the film directed by Alex Timbers with music and lyrics by Eddie Perfect and the musical book written by Scott Brown and Anthony King. The musical premiered at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. for a limited run from October 14 to November 18, 2018, with Alex Brightman in the title role.

“Beetlejuice” opened at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre on Thursday, April 25, 2019. In December 2019, it was announced that the production would play its final performance at the Winter Garden on June 6, 2020.

The producers were unable to find another theater to house the show due to the COVID Broadway shut down in March 2020. The show reopened at the Marquis Theatre on April 8, 2022, and closed on January 8, 2023. Now, the National Tour of “Beetlejuice” is coming to Philly.

Based on Tim Burton’s dearly beloved film, this hilarious musical tells the story of Lydia Deetz, a strange and unusual teenager whose whole life changes when she meets a recently deceased couple and a demon with a thing for stripes.

“Beetlejuice” has been described as “one of the cheekiest shows on the 2022-23 Broadway season, with a visually spectacular set and over 100 special effects, optical illusions, and pyrotechnics.”

The National Tour features Justin Collette in the title role.

“I had seen ‘Beetlejuice’ on Broadway,” said Collette, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Boston. “I also saw the workshop in D.C. in 2018.

“I really liked the script. I was surprised at how fresh and funny it was – how it was updated. It’s so funny – and so smart. I don’t think it bends the original story – it expands it.

“It’s focused more on the Maitlands’ story – and on Lydia. And there is some really good music from the movie. Eddie Perfect’s music is perfect.

“The Maitlands are strait-laced so it’s more like musical theater. Beetlejuice’s music is all over the place while Lydia’s music is gothic and punk. It’s fascinating how he has pitched the music to the character.”

Recently, Collette played Dewey Finn “School of Rock” on Broadway. Collette has also done films and television and is known for “Doomlands,” “Like a Country Song” and “Conviction.” He has spent years performing sketch/improv at major comedy festivals and has written/voiced several cartoon shorts for “Bite On Mondo,” racking up millions of views on YouTube.

In “Beetlejuice,” he must play the same character that was immortalized by Michael Keaton’s performance in the movie.

“I don’t try to compete,” said Collette. “I watched an interview with Michael Keaton that discusses how he came up with the character. He’s so free and uninhibited.

“I try to understand how he built the character. Playing the character just feels bizarrely natural to me. I don’t want to disrupt the familiarity.

The creative team has allowed us to put our own spin on it and I find that to be very exciting.”

Collette admitted that the role can be a challenging one.

“The show is complicated,” said Collette. “It’s not just a musical. There are magic tricks. It’s really dense. There is a lot to it. And the fourth wall brings the audience in.

“Because the character interacts with the audience a lot, I break down the wall kind of relentlessly. When I took on the character, I wanted to do a super version – with a punk rock attitude.”

Video link for “Beetlejuice” – https://youtu.be/JJGpcb41Ckw.

The show will run now through June 11 at the Academy of Music.

Ticket prices start at $20.

The Bristol Riverside Theatre (120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, PA, www.brtstage.org) is presenting the area debut of the comedic drama “Chicken & Biscuits” now through June 4.

“Chicken & Biscuits” is a play by Douglas Lyons that made its Broadway debut in 2021 at the Circle in the Square Theatre. The comedy’s planned four-month run was cut short due to the challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Broadway production starred Norm Lewis and Michael Urie in the story of a New Haven pastor’s funeral at a Black church that was disrupted by family drama. Prior to its Broadway engagement, “Chicken & Biscuits” debuted at the Queens Theatre in the Park in February 2020.”

“It’s not a funeral. It’s a celebration!” is the enthusiastic rallying cry of “Chicken and Biscuits.” The play is a comedy about universally felt tensions at family events.

In “Chicken & Biscuits,” rivaling sisters Baneatta Mabry (Miche Braden) and Beverley Jenkins (Gabrielle Lee) are burying their late father, but it’s the non-stop family drama that might be the death of them. Beverly, a single mother to precocious teenager La’Trice Franklin (Maya Imani), is determined to show off her blessings to the congregation gathered to pay respect to her father.

Meanwhile, Baneatta and her husband Reginald (Walter Deshields) have their hands full with their daughter Simone (Ashley Nicole Baptiste) and son Kenny (Adrian Baidoo), who brings his white Jewish boyfriend Logan (Alex Brightwell) to the service. Everyone quickly gets swept up in the proceedings after a mysterious guest (Nellesa Walthour) reveals a family secret.

“I was familiar with the show prior to this production,” said Lee, during a phone interview from Bristol this week. “I was living in New York, but I wasn’t going to theater during COVID. But I knew people who were in the Broadway cast.

“I read it and it’s hysterical. I love comedy.  I feel like it’s second nature to me. I’m usually a musical actor so it is nice to have a chance to do a comedy.”

Lee is a Nashville native who graduated from the University of Memphis and then headed to New York to pursue an acting career.

Her stage resume includes “All Night Strut,” “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” “Showboat,” “Ain’t Misbehavin,” Dreamgirls,” “Intimate Apparel,” “Legend of the Jazz Age,” “Bricktop” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”

She has also performed in many television and film productions including “Madam Secretary,” Law & Order,” “Bull,” Double Platinum,” “Blue Bloods” and “The Affair.”

As a vocalist, Lee has worked with Harry Belafonte, the New York Pops, Marvin Hamlisch, Common, Cab Calloway Orchestra, Angelique Kidjo, Ray Charles Orchestra, Steely Dan, and Natalie Cole.

“I moved to New York after college,” said Lee. “I had an aunt who performed on Broadway, and I wanted that too.

“I’ve been performing since I was a really little girl. I think it found me. I always knew I wanted to be a performer. When I was around five or six, I had a recurring dream about performing while wearing this long gown.”

Lee doesn’t wear a long gown in “Chicken & Biscuits,” but she does show up with the tradition solemn-but-not-really funeral combination of an expressive hat and a colorful dress. Beverly is not shy.

“Oh My God, this character is hysterical,” said Lee, who grew up in a Southern Baptist family.

“I know who she was. I know every character in this piece. I can name them in my family.

“This the history of a Black family and, like every Black family, it has its hangups. Baneatta is my older sistr and we’re rivalsd. The show is real. It’s on point.”

Video link for “Chicken & Biscuits” — https://youtu.be/IvwwtNjPTKA.

“Chicken & Biscuits” is running now through June 4 at the Bristol Riverside Theatre.

Ticket prices start at $45.

Every season, the Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) presents mostly musicals with just one non-musical in the season’s schedule. That show this season is “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” which is a murder mystery. The action takes place on an estate in Chappaqua, New York in December 1940.

An eccentric heiress has invited a group of theater people to her home on the pretense of holding a backer’s audition for a new musical. The creative team for this new project was also involved in a recent Broadway flop that closed abruptly when three of its showgirls were mysteriously murdered.

As the mayhem at the mansion unfolds, murders begin to pile up and everyone’s a suspect. The zany show features a lot of slapstick comedy along with blizzard conditions, secret passageways and musical snippets.

The play was first performed at the Circle Repertory Company in New York and later moved to Broadway in April 1987 at The Longacre Theatre. Both productions were directed by the playwright and shared the same cast. The play is said to have been based on several 1940s mystery movies, including The Cat and the Canary, one of Bob Hope’s first films.

Bernice Roth is a perpetually thirsty lyricist and alcoholic. She is Roger’s partner. Bernice is very odd and emotional, frequently losing her composure and screaming. When Marjorie fails to respond to the second act opening number of “White House Merry-Go-Round”, Bernice is hugely offended, despite the fact that Marjorie was dead at the time. She spends the entire second act attempting to “fix” the play, even when she is held hostage.

The production at Candlelight also features a standout cast of Susan Giddings, Chelsea Paradiso, Susan Wefel, Henry Glejzer, Walter Todd, Chris Fitting, Sarah Mackus, Robert Gene Pellechio, Samantha Ricciuti and Shaun Yates.

“The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” is running now through June 25. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and a show, are $71.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) has hosted many shows by Jann Klose and Annie Haslam in recent years – including concerts in which they shared the bill.

On May 25, the two international artists will again share a bill at the Sellersville Theater with headliner Klose celebrating the release of a new album – an album on which special guest Haslam added vocals.

Haslam, a native of England, now lives in Bucks County.  These world class singers have collaborated in many ways including covering Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush’s “Don’t Give Up” for Klose’s previous album, “In Tandem,” released on South Africa’s Gallo Records.

Klose is celebrating the release of his new studio album “Surrender,” which is finding airplay on radio throughout the world, including influencers WFUV, WPKN, WFDU, Asheville FM (103.3 fm), Pacific Coast FM, Sirius XM’s Underground Garage. He recently concluded his sixth tour of South Africa.

Klose is an award-winning pop singer-songwriter, who has released seven albums and two EPs. Klose was raised in Kenya, South Africa, Germany and the United States. His recent singles “Sugar My,” “Flesh and Blood,” “Love You the Most,” and “Pilot Light” have accumulated over 5 million streams across all platforms and charted on Top 40 radio in the US and South Africa.

Klose has worked with several charities including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and Desmond Tutu’s TutuDesk campaign. He is the singing voice of Tim Buckley in the movie “Greetings from Tim Buckley” (Universal). His songs have been heard on the Grammy® nominated “Healthy Food For Thought” compilation, charted in the Billboard Top 10 compilation “Action Moves People United” as well as MTV Cribs and movies “Married Young” (Amazon), “Dead Broke” (Warner Bros) featuring Paul Sorvino and “One Little Finger” alongside Quincy Jones.

He has performed as an actor and singer in touring companies of Broadway musicals, including “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Jekyll and Hyde,” and “The Who’s Tommy” as well as made for TV movies, voice overs and commercials. In 2020, Jann launched his podcast, Making Sound with Jann Klose. Recent episodes have featured industry legends like Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), Frank Bello (Anthrax), and Simon Kirke (Bad Company).

Klose’s seventh studio album, “Surrender,” was released March 3rd, 2023.

According to Klose, “The album ‘Surrender’ isn’t meant to be understood in the traditional sense. It doesn’t refer to ‘losing’ per se. Quite the opposite, it’s actually about winning! Winning, because there is enough strength inside to arrive at a point of true peace. A ‘letting go’ of baggage and a new, different approach to love, connection and self-awareness that wasn’t present before,” the singer explains.

“The album was created under the most unusual of circumstances. We were dealing with a global pandemic and a complete shutdown of music venues and recording studio. My co-writer for more than half the album, Alex Forbes and I got together bi-weekly at her apartment in Manhattan and poured our souls into the songs during the strangest of times.

“Producer Marcus Dembinski and I worked in person at our home studios in Manhattan and Queens, then started adding live instruments at Studio G Brooklyn with engineer Cyril Putzer when it became possible. A lot of recording was done remotely. Max Sternlicht, who played all the great bass lines you hear on most of the record, and Dimitris Menexopoulos recorded his Cretan Lyra in Greece, and Ben Kesler mastered ‘Surrender’ in St. Louis, Missouri.”

An internationally acclaimed solo artist, Haslam is known for her solo work and her work as lead singer for the British band Renaissance. Acclaimed for its unique blending of progressive rock with classical and symphonic influences, Renaissance’s long and successful career has been spearheaded by the five-octave voice of Haslam and the masterful songwriting skills of Michael Dunford.

Haslam, who was born in Bolton, Lancashire, first gained worldwide recognition when she was asked to become the lead singer of Renaissance, a band formed by Keith Relf after he left the Yardbirds.

According to Haslam, “I joined the band New Year’s Day 1971. Now, more than 50 years later we are still performing and bringing our unique style of music to more and more fans all over the world.

With Renaissance, Haslam was the lead vocalist on seven studio albums during their classic period (1972–1979), four studio albums from 1981–present, and a number of live albums.

In 1977, Haslam began her solo career with her album “Annie in Wonderland,” produced by Roy Wood (who was a key member of The Move, one of England’s best rock bands in the late 1960s). Wood played most of the musical instruments.

Haslam has since released eight studio albums, three of which were released through her own record label, White Dove. She has also collaborated with Steve Howe of the prog rock band Yes, on a number of projects.

From the year 2002, Haslam has developed a parallel career as a visual artist, producing paintings on canvas, painted musical instruments, and giclées.

“I’m still painting a lot,” said Haslam. “It was hard during the pandemic. I didn’t start painting again until 2021.”

Video link for Annie Haslam – https://youtu.be/MeB82QmGa1Q.

Video link for Jann Klose – www.youtube.com/watch?v=REDNu8_BGIc.

The show at the Sellersville Theater will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets range from $21.50 to $29.50.

On May 27, Nashville’s John Ford Coley has a legion of fans in the area and has performed well attended shows at venues such as the Sellersville Theater and the World Cafe Live. On May 27 Coley will make another visit to the area for his very first show at the Kelly Center (49 S. Eagle Road, Havertown, kellycenter.org).

There have been many famous duos in rock music over the years such as Ashford & Simpson, Sam and Dave, Richard and Linda Thompson, Fripp & Eno, Sonny and Cher, Ike and Tina Turner. Some of them get back together years after they have separated. Others will never be able to reconnect because of the death of one of the members.

Some of the well-known have even formed duos with other truncated-by-death duos such as Peter and Jeremy – the fusion of Jeremy Clyde from Chad & Jeremy and Peter Asher, whose partner in Peter and Gordon (Gordon Waller) passed away in 2009.

Then there is England Dan & John Ford Coley.

Dan Seals (England Dan) and Coley, who went to high school together in Dallas, Texas, formed their musical duo in the early 1970s and released their debut album “England Dan & John Ford Coley” in 1971.

Over the next decade, they had three Number One hits – “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” “We’ll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again” and “Love Is the Answer.”

The duo split in 1980 when Seals decided to pursue a career in country music, where he found success throughout the 1980s, scoring hits with “Meet Me in Montana” (with Marie Osmond) and “Bop.”

Any chance of a reunion down the road evaporated when Seals died in March 2009 following treatment for mantle cell lymphoma.

After the duo disbanded, Coley began an acting career and made several television and film appearances in the 1980s. He returned to an active touring schedule in the 1990s, along with serving as co-producer for artists such as Eddie Money.

Coley has also written his autobiography, “Backstage Pass,” which tells fascinating tales of his many years in the music business. He still undertakes a busy tour schedule — performing to devoted audiences worldwide.

“I play around 50 shows a year,” said Coley, during a phone interview Tuesday from a tour stop in Lewes, Delaware. “I still enjoy travelling and seeing places.”

“I always go out by myself. I play with myself chiefly, and I always get along really well with myself. It’s me and my guitar and my piano and we go down Memory Lane.”

It is a format that works well.

“I made my last album a few years ago,” said Coley, who has more than a dozen albums on his musical resume. “It’s just me. I had all these songs. People have the impression that if you’re not on the radio, you’re not working. That’s not true at all.

“Some of the songs on it were written in 1983 and some are current. The album is called ‘Eclectic.’ I cut it with a friend of mine – producer Tom Wurth. It has a wide variety of styles.

“I’ve always been trained in a lot of different styles – from folk to show…from opera to country. This album has classical, pop, folk, jazz and rock. The variety is there because it’s just what I do. I’m not interested with getting on the radio.”

Just because Coley hasn’t released a studio album since 2016 and plays just 50-60 shows a year doesn’t mean the veteran musician has been sitting back doing nothing.

“My latest LP is a live album that was recorded in 2019,” said Coley. “It’s called ‘Long Way Home – Live in Israel & L.A.’

“I also made ‘Sketches Volume 1,’ which came out in 2021. It features songs I did for films and songs that I only did demos for. Tom Wurth came over and I played him some songs. He asked me why I hadn’t put them out.

“I write a lot of songs and then they end up in a drawer. So, I took 10 of them and made them into this album. ‘Sketches Volume 2’ will be next, but I haven’t selected the songs yet.”

Money isn’t a driving force for Coley. He just wants to make music for his own pleasure and the pleasure of his fans.

“I’m doing this because I enjoy playing for people,” said Coley. “My set list has only three or four songs from ‘Eclectic.’ I learned a long time ago that people don’t relate to songs they don’t know.

“So, I play England Dan & John Ford Coley songs. I’ll always play ‘Love Is the Answer,’ ‘Gone Too Far’ and ‘I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.’ People come to the show to go down Memory Lane.”

Video link for John Ford Coley – https://youtu.be/ROyZcZ0-sns.

The show at the Kelly Center on May 27 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door.

Psychedelic blues are on the menu for this weekend when Bees Deluxe headlines a show at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) on May 27.

The band was formed by British guitar ace Conrad Warre.

“I grew up in London,” said Warre, during a phone interview from his home in Boston. “I went to a Quaker boarding school that had a lot of U.S. students. One of them gave me a blues compilation album with songs by Johnny Winter, Little Walter and B.B. King.

“In high school, I was in a band with Paul Kossoff. Paul later went on to be a guitarist with the band Free.

“I got a degree in graphic design. When I got out of college, I realized I didn’t want to do graphic design.”

Music was a prime alternative.

“I’m from London – from Notting Hill Gate, where the riots were,” said Warre. “I wrote Two-Tone music and toured with The English Beat and Joe Jackson. I moved to New York and played a lot at CBGB’s.

“I found Carol playing jazz at Ryles Jazz Club in Boston. I got Paul in the band because he knew who Bernard Purdie was. Jim was a friend of his and they played country blues together.”

Bees Deluxe has played with Ronnie Earl, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Matt Schofield, Roomful of Blues, Walter Trout and David Maxwell. The four-piece band celebrates the music of B.B. King, Robert Cray, Albert King, Tinsley Ellis, Freddie King and others.

So, the band’s background includes blues, rock, English ska, punk rock, jazz and country rock. Its current sound is all of that – and none of that.

“Our sound is more modern – more progressive – more edge,” said Band.

Warre, who is a British football fan and supporter of the Arsenal Gunners, said, “The communality is acid rock and blues. So many bands play the same songs the same way every night. When we play, we stretch it out and change it always. Arrangements are made up on the fly.”

Bees Deluxe push the limits of the blues, color outside the lines of convention, and do it with impeccable musicality, originality, and a touch of insanity.

“This kind of music appeals to fans of all ages – if they get to hear it,” said Warre. “We’re at our best when people are dancing.”

“Or if they’re hooting and hollering. We adjust our music to the audience. If it’s not a dance crowd, we can stretch it out.

“We don’t play a standard blues band repertoire. A lot of blues bands play the same few songs such as ‘Born Under a Bad Sign,’ ‘Spoonful,’ and ‘The Thrill Is Gone.’ It’s really repetitive.

“I pick songs that other blues bands don’t – for example songs by J. B. Lenoir. We like to discover songs that are off the beaten path.

In 2018, Bees Deluxe released their all-original acid-blues album, “Voice of Dog,” which was produced by Joe Egan on Slapping Cat Records.

The band’s CD, “Mouthful of Bees,” which features an original sound that they call “acid blues,” was produced by Egan and Warre. It includes three originals and seven classic blues songs re-interpreted by the band.

“Our repertoire has about 60 covers – most of which are deep cuts — and 40 originals. You’re in danger if you play too many originals.”

“We’ve played Jamey’s before. It’s like dying and going to heaven.”

Band added, “The people are there for the music.”

Video link for Bees Deluxe — https://youtu.be/9Ae6It4EEL0.

The show at Jamey’s House of Music on May 27 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

The concert at Jamey’s on May 26 will feature Manali and Tea Head.

Manali is the product of four likeminded individuals based in Chester County.

Founded in 2020, Manali consists of guitarist and vocalist Jake Blumenthal, bassist Grayson Lake, drummer Brian Trifaro, and keyboardist and vocalist Thomas Wright.

Through the use of improvisation, extended instrumental sections, and the creative blending of genres, Manali’s all original music tells stories of nostalgia, loss, and introspection, invoking thoughts and feelings well known but left unsaid. Notable past performances include Time and Space Ltd. in Hudson, NY and their spotlight sets at Porchfest in West Chester.

The band signed with Earthwalker Records in 2022 and is currently recording its first studio album.

Tea Head is a rock band from Philadelphia which plays a mix of psychedelia, indie, and classic rock influences.

Showtime on Friday is 8p.m.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.


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