Despite some unfortunate opening night sound issues—or perhaps just the usual weak acoustics—one thing comes through loud and clear in Beetlejuice at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa: Miss Isabella Esler, a recent high school grad in her professional debut as the female lead, Lydia, is a young lady who appears to have a bright future ahead.

The guy playing the title role, Justin Collette, is no slouch either; he’s a wild and wonderfully animated substitute for the movie Beetlejuice, Michael Keaton. The rest of the ensemble in this national tour is more than capable, notably Sarah Litzsinger (Delia) and Hillary Porter (Miss Argentina).

David Korins’ scenic design, William Ivey Long’s costumes and Peter Negronis projection contribute substantially to the show (at SCFTA through April 28). Scott Brown & Anthony King’s book and Eddie Perfect’s music & lyrics are consistently entertaining. 

Whether the show does the Tim Burton movie justice or falls short of the mark is a subjective question, of course. For me, it held my interest but didn’t quite measure up to the original. The show gets a little silly now and then but it’s classy silliness if you will, never descending to the level of say, Gods of Comedy, seen last month in OC. 

The recent San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which moved to the historic Palace of Fine Arts in the city’s Marina District this year, was a triumph on all counts. Old favorites looked better than ever and new discoveries more than met expectations. To top it off, the live accompaniment was outstanding from first screening to last.

The vividly restored two-color Technicolor “The Black Pirate” with Douglas Fairbanks Sr. nearly knocked me out of my seat. Clara Bow sparkled in “Dancing Mothers” and the long lost “The Pill Pounder,” Buster Keaton (“Sherlock Jr.”) and Harold Lloyd (“The Kid Brother”) won new fans and made old ones laugh heartily, and Syd Chaplin emerged from the shadow of his brother in “Oh! What a Nurse!” 

Karl Grune’s German noir “The Street,” Georg Jacoby’s slick and sophisticated pan-European “The Joker,” Victor Sjostrom’s moody “The Phantom Carriage” and the melodramatic “The Lady” with Norma Talmadge were among the discoveries that delighted audiences. Few would disagree the hard-working festival staff deserves an A for effort.

Photo: Isabella Esler and Justin Collette in Beetlejuice. (Courtesy of SCFTA)

Author: Jordan Young