It’s Showtime!

Broadway in Richmond brings a spirited view of the afterlife to the Altria Theater with the musical “Beetlejuice.”

Like many young people, Isabella Esler intended to go to college directly after finishing high school. Broadway had other plans.

Instead of attending a four-year institution, Esler was cast as Lydia in the touring Broadway production of “Beetlejuice,” a musical adaptation of the 1988 Tim Burton movie of the same name.

“It was really shocking to see my future change like that so quickly,” says the 20-year-old of her first professional acting role. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for so long.”

In early June, Esler and the rest of the cast of “Beetlejuice” will take up residence at the Altria Theater as part of the Broadway in Richmond season.

While the theatrical adaptation is still a wacky exploration of the afterlife with a crude “bio-exorcist” named Betelgeuse, a goth teenager and a recently deceased married couple, fans of the cult classic film will find quite a few changes in store, including more of a focus on themes of grief and family.

A fan of both the movie and the Broadway musical versions, Esler submitted an audition tape to portray Lydia in 2021 as New York theaters were beginning to reopen from the pandemic. The submission eventually led to her casting in the touring production.

“The show is just hilarious,” Esler says. “There’s a lot of improvised moments that make each performance feel very personal and different. At the same time, the show has a lot of heart to it. It’s not just running around making jokes. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to sing along.”

Esler says Lydia is the epitome of a teenager.

“She’s very much a moody teen,” Esler says. “She’s so clever. She’s really funny. And she cares a lot.”

Portraying the goth teen Lydia in “Beetlejuice” is Isabella Esler’s first professional role.

A native of San Jose, California, Esler was pleased that the touring production’s first stop was in San Francisco, near where she grew up.

“I had so many friends and family come to support me on our opening,” she says. “It felt really special to me. It felt like a really good send-off for the show and my career.”

Adapting to life on the road has been one of her recent life changes.

“Touring is different than I thought it would be, and not in a bad way,” she says. “I feel like no one really prepares you for touring, this lifestyle of living out of a suitcase and trying to figure out where to do laundry every week.”

One of the thrills of touring for Esler has been encountering audience members who dress up for the show, often making their own costumes.

“The musical has such a big audience online,” Esler says. “A lot of [the audience members] are actually seeing the musical for the first time, and it’s been cool to bring the show to them.”

She says it’s been surreal to be cast in a musical that she’s been a fan of for so long.

“I’ve liked it since it opened on Broadway,” she says. “Now I get to be a part of that story all across the United States. It’s a great first job. I’ll take it.”

Broadway in Richmond’s “Beetlejuice” plays June 4-9, at the Altria Theater, 6 N. Laurel St., 23220. For more information, visit broadwayinrichmond.com.

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