As Alex Brightman walked through the gates of the Netherworld one last time at the Marquis Theater on Sunday night, his black-and-white-striped Beetlejuice team was enveloped in a cloud of smoke, uttering a few special words of farewell:
And that’s what he meant.
“I am very aware that it may be my last time to Broadway,” said Brightman, 35, who played the ghostly guide in the Broadway musical “Beetlejuice” for parts of the past four years. The 1988 film Tim Burton is about the confrontation between a goth girl and an insidious demon. “So it’s a humbling experience to be there, to be able to share, and to be vulnerable.”
His farewell did not turn out as he had expected. During a Christmas Eve performance, Brightman hit the show’s giant sandworm backstage at full speed—when a door didn’t open, Brightman tried an unfortunate alternate route—giving him a concussion.
“I don’t understand what happened,” he said. “I thought I hit my head.”
The symptoms abruptly resurfaced two days later, and after spending the next week nauseous, achy, and painfully sensitive to light, she thought she had played her last performance—perhaps not at all. (Three of the show’s substitutes and substitutes, the Beetlejuices, Andrew Kober, Elliott Mattox, and Will Blum, were filled in while Brightman was absent.)
“I thought I wasn’t going to get better,” said Brightman, who was funny and lively in the eighth-floor cocktail lounge of the Marriott Marquis hotel before donning his costume for the Sunday night performance. “It felt like a long illness of 10 or 11 days in one day.”
But things got better about a week ago, he said, and after four hours of rehearsal on Thursday, it was all clear to return for the show’s final three evening performances.
At the sold-out performance on Sunday night, 1,602 spectators, most wearing black and white striped suits and green wigs, showered Brightman with praise. (Everyone who attended was given a special Playbill with a silver sticker on the cover that read “It’s Last Showtime”.) It started with its debut, with two minutes of applause and a standing ovation.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” said Brightman, who has appeared in six Broadway shows and earned Tony Award nominations for his role in “Beetlejuice” and for his role as Dewey Finn in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical adaptation of “School of Rock.” ”
Although “Beetlejuice” opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater in April 2019 to mixed reviews (New York Times critic Ben Brantley called it “absolutely exhausting”), it was a fan favorite—dozens of us would come across as Lydia, Lydia. Maitlands and, of course, Beetlejuice will compete in the musical’s pre-show costume contests. Still, the show was given a closing notice in December when the Shubert Organization needed real estate for what it saw as a potentially lucrative “The Music Man” production. Then the pandemic happened and production shut down in March 2020.
Increased sales before it closed prompted the producers to reopen the show at the Marquis Theater in April last year. But over the summer, attendance plummeted again, and the producers announced in October that the show would close in January after 679 performances. (A national touring production began in December, and international versions are also coming in Brazil and Japan.)
Brightman and Elizabeth Teeter, who play Lydia, are on the screen Sunday night with “Hey guys” and “I love you guys!”
“This is a show about death that is essentially a celebration of life,” said Alex Timbers, the show’s director, from the stage after a storm of purple-green confetti. “And you all gave us life.”
In the dressing room before and immediately after the show—sweaty and smiling in a white V-neck smudged with green and red flecks as her crew helped her take off her makeup for the last time—Brightman most thought of parting ways with the ghost. , an ardent fan of the series is following, and what’s next for her (other than sleeping, of course).
These are edited excerpts from the speech.
You read the chapter for the first time in 2017. How do you feel after tonight’s performance?
Tired. It was very cathartic. I’m excited to close after six years.
Does a concussion have a lasting effect?
I still have a headache, but they’re not throbbing. I’m getting the flame. And my doctor said I’ll probably be more headache-prone for the rest of my life because of this, but nothing too crazy.
How important was it to you to be able to make it to closing night?
I am not one of those people who believe that that miraculous appearance will appear because it is necessary in that final performance. I value my health and want to do more from now on. So it was unlikely that I would pass out on stage or risk re-injuring myself if I wasn’t ready.
What was it like to be on a show with such a devoted fan base?
It never, ever gets old. “Beetlejuice” fans are the warmest fans I’ve ever met in the six Broadway shows I’ve ever done. There’s a lot of me out there, so it’s very comforting and emotional for 1,500 people to accept my character on the show and my bullshit, comedy, and improvisational style.
How does it feel to spend so long with the same character?
The last thing I want to do is get bored with everything I’m doing and anything that takes this long has its dangers but this part allows me to discover new things every minute, not every night. I have a knack for being a little up-to-date, a little loose – I don’t feel like I’m on a track. This made it easy to do for six years.
What is one moment that is different in every show?
There’s an episode in the opening issue where I have a booth microphone and do a “Tip Your Waitress” kind of Frank Sinatra impersonation. And inside, there’s room for me to say a few things if I want to. Last night was the “Kardashians!” I shouted. and laughed for no reason. And then I said, “I can’t keep up with them.” “Gangnam Style!” has also become popular.
How were your first attempts at Beetlejuice sound?
At my first audition, I was like, “I don’t know how to make the impression of Michael Keaton, so let me try something”. And it went well, but I paid for it for two days – my voice was on fire.
How do you do this now for eight programs a week without damaging your vocal cords?
This is called ventricular loop phonation, and it means you vibrate the cartilage in your throat as well as your vocal cords. Through trial and error, I was able to figure out that it was the same muscles I used to clear my throat. I can do this interview better and healthier with this voice [switches to Beetlejuice voice] rather than speaking in this voice [returns to normal voice], because right now I’m using my vocal cords and the vocal cords are tired. Cartilage does not tire – there are no nerves, it is not a muscle.
I sold an animated series to Warner Bros., “The Cleaners,” a raunchy, slightly musical comedy about a crew from Boston doing a biohazard cleanup – the crime scene, the meth labs, the hoarders. And I wrote a play called “Everything Is Fine”, which tells the story of a shooting attack in a shopping mall through the eyes of the perpetrator’s family, who is no longer with us. Cynthia Nixon moderated some of the readings and we hope to keep getting this somewhere in New York. And I’m working with Universal Theatrical with my writing partner on a musical adaptation of the movie “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” about a child hospitalized in a psychiatric ward.
So a lot of text.
I’ve been on stage for 15 years, consistently and a little bit on Broadway and in a musical, I know it’s a very privileged thing to say. But what comes with doing this is scrutiny. People look at you every night and judge you. I want to do my own thing for a second – to let my work speak for itself and not have to defend it with a musical number.
Ever wanted to return to “Beetlejuice”?
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I have the priority right for a London production. There is no design I know of yet to make it happen, but I would consider it.
Let’s do a quick round of approval or rejection.
You did the voice-over in a public setting outside of the theatre.
Confirm. A few months ago I went to Starbucks and said [in Beetlejuice voice] “Can I have a grande Pike Place with a little half and half and just a Splenda?” “What is your name?” they said. So I said “BJ” [in Beetlejuice tone]. Then “Coffee for BJ?” they said. So I said [in Beetlejuice tone], “Thank you very much.” And I left. New York. I was the least weird thing that walked into Starbucks that day.
You get nervous when you find out that there’s going to be someone famous on the show.
Deny. The only person who would piss me off would be Mel Brooks, because I respect him probably to a pretty unhealthy point.
If you had to choose between marrying Beetlejuice or wearing a single pair of used workout clothes for the rest of your life, you would –
Marry Beetlejuice, I wish I knew how much I sweat.