The show has since become a word-of-mouth success – even breaking a box office record at the Winter Garden over the US Thanksgiving week last month, grossing nearly $US1.6 million ($2.34 million) – and capturing a devoted following online, largely through the the social media app Tik Tok.
“I always believed in the show,” says Perfect of its successful turnaround. “I think we were unfortunate in Washington DC to get a very conservative critic in the paper that mattered, and that cast a pall over the show that was very hard to shake. This was never going to be a show that a 60-year-old man was going to love, and unfortunately Broadway theatre is one of those art-forms where old people tell young people what’s cool, and you really have to survive those gatekeepers.”
His worry over the show’s looming end, he says, is that “the takeaway would be Beetlejuice failed, that we’re closing.”
“That’s certainly not what’s happening. In fact the opposite has been happening, which is what makes this so strange,” says Perfect. “So it does feel very much like we’re being cut short. We fought very hard for the right to be able to fail like everyone else, to fail because ticket sales are dropping, or whatever.
“This show is sort of like having your first girlfriend or boyfriend; you don’t really know what’s normal,” he says. “I was like, ‘Really? Is Broadway really this brutal? Is it continuously one brutal bit of news after another?’ But I’m assured this is pretty unprecedented.”
It does feel very much like we’re being cut short … I’m assured this is pretty unprecedented.
The show’s Broadway eviction might have a silver-lining for Australian fans, potentially speeding up plans to bring the musical Down Under. Perfect says while he’s “not on the inside” on such discussions, Australia’s been “on top of the list” on plans to tour the show beyond Broadway.
“I obviously have a huge desire to bring what we’ve made back home, and not just for vanity’s sake,” he says. “I truly believe we’ve made a show that does feel Australian; it has a sensibility and a macabre approach to comedy that Australians will delight in. So yeah, hopefully this very strange and unprecedented situation we find ourselves in kind of puts pressure on working out where Beetlejuice goes next and I know Australia’s on that list.”
Considering the public response, he’s not yet giving up hope on the show finding another Broadway home.
“As anyone who’s tried to bring a show into Broadway will know, there is a slightly gross aspect of having to wait for another show to close so you can go in there. It’s like buzzards circling a little wilderbeest,” says Perfect. “We know what it’s like to be kicked out of our home so no one wants to turn around and force any other show out. So it’s really just a case of staying positive and keeping our hand up, and maybe it’ll work out for us.
“We’ve been watching Beetlejuice‘s success with about as much slack-jawed awe and disbelief as everybody else, and the one thing I’ve learnt about Broadway is you never know what’s around the corner,” he says.
“Without any prompting from us, it’s been nice to see the Beetlejuice community go into bat for us and hopefully the ground-swell of support means there’s motivation to find us a home. And if that doesn’t happen we’re just going to make sure that every show between now and June 6 is as crazy and wild and fun as can be. But I’d be very sad if that was the end of the road.”
Robert Moran is a culture reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age