“Beetlejuice,” which closed on Broadway earlier this month and arrives at the Detroit Opera on January 31, was called “great fun” by Variety and “exuberant and macabre” by The New York Times. Based on Tim Burton’s beloved 1988 film, the musical tells the story of Lydia Deetz, an unusual teenager whose life changes when she meets a recently deceased couple and Beetlejuice, “a stripe-loving demon.” .
Among the talented actors of the series will be three actors – Britney Coleman, who grew up in Ann Arbor, Will Burton and Nevada Riley. All are graduates of the University of Michigan as well as veterans of various musicals. Britney and Will play a married couple in the play but were roommates at UM. We caught up with the talented trio in Cleveland, the show’s first stop, to find out more about the upcoming show, life on the road and what they’ll be up to while they’re in the Motor City.
When did you graduate from UM? What shows did you perform in then?
Britney Coleman: I graduated in 2011. Probably the most notable (and surprisingly viral on YouTube) show I’ve performed in was written, directed, engineered, and produced entirely by students: “A Very Potter Musical.” Some other favorite onstage moments were playing Sarah in “Ragtime” and Grusha in “The Caucasian Chalk Circle.”
Will Burton: I graduated in 2011. I played Jeff in “Brigadoon” my senior year. One of my favorite roles was Henry Ford in “Ragtime”. It’s a small role but it has a great song. I’ve done a bunch of new musicals, including playing the title role in a show my classmates, Carlos Valdes and AJ Holmes, wrote called “Gibson Fleck.” I was also in “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” and “42nd Street!”
Nevada Riley: I graduated in 2019. In school I was Charity in Sweet Charity and Serena in Legally Blonde my senior year. Other shows I participated in were Me and My Girl, One Hit Wonder and Avenue Q.
What have you done since? Where do you live now?
Colman: I’ve done a lot of fun things since graduating from U of M. A few fun shows on Broadway, a few tours, and many interesting regional theaters across the country. NYC is the home base right now.
Burton: After graduating, I spent about four years doing a ton of regional theater…I got my chance when I was cast in “An American in Paris,” a new film adaptation, directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. We played in Paris for 2.5 months and then moved to Broadway. From there I stayed in New York working on Broadway shows for the next six years. After that show, I did “Holiday Inn” at Studio 54, “Hello, Dolly!” (My first Broadway lead, Ambrose Kemper, opposite Bette Midler), then “Kiss Me, Kate!” back to Studio 54. Since then I’ve done a few more regional gigs (Igor in “Young Frankenstein” was a favorite), and a few new musicals, including the Off-Broadway series of “Between the Lines”, where I played a tap dancing dog! I am currently based in New York, although I will be touring with “Beetlejuice” for at least the next year.
Riley: I’m in New York. Right after graduating, I was on the “Cats” national tour until the pandemic hit. I joined the Broadway production of “Beetlejuice” and made my Broadway debut with the show reopening in 2022 before joining the tour.
Favorite cities to visit on your tour? Why?
Colman: San Diego for weather and food; Chicago because it’s my big city in the United States; and Detroit, because it’s our home!
Burton: This is my first tour! Our first stop was San Francisco, which I absolutely loved. Such a nice place with great food. Regionally, I loved playing in Chicago, another incredible food city. But I’m really looking forward to performing in Detroit, where I saw a lot of theater when I was in school, and visiting Ann Arbor where I spent four crazy, crazy years becoming the man and the artist that I am today.
Riley: I I loved going to Toronto when I was in “Cats!” I’m excited to play in Detroit and be close to campus!
Is this your first time performing in Detroit? Did you go to shows when you lived here?
Colman: It’s the first time I’ve played at this level in Detroit. I grew up seeing tours come through Detroit Opera and the Fisher Theater, which absolutely influenced my love for acting. I’m thrilled to have so many friends and family in the audience while I’m here.
Burton: This is my first time performing in Detroit, although I’ve done a ton of road shows in Ann Arbor. During school, we used to go into town to see shows on tour, so I’m so excited to be a part of it. And I hope to have the chance to see and talk to musical theater students from the University of Michigan currently in school.
Riley: Yes, it’s the first time. I never went to shows when I was at U of M but it was always so exciting when the alumni performed there because they would tour the campus and tell us all about the show/l ‘business.
Tell me about your character in Beetlejuice. What do you like most/least about being on the show?
Colman: Barbara and her husband Adam are the recently deceased couple who haunt the house Lydia and her father move into. These are the roles played by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin in the film. They’re total squares and total lovers learning to step out of their comfort zone with help from Lydia and Beetlejuice. I love playing opposite Will every night and I love that this show is light and fun – it makes touring so much easier! The cast is one of the finest I’ve ever worked with. These types of shows encourage goofs and being able to have fun with the cast every night might be the best part, but it’s also nice to get paid to travel.
Burton: Adam Maitland is a smart guy with a wild imagination who has a hard time keeping his cool under pressure. He absolutely adores his strong and passionate wife, Barbara, and draws a lot of inspiration from her during the show. I love this show. I like the people I work with. I love the music and the band. It’s outrageously funny, and I feel so grateful to be a part of it every day. My least favorite thing about the show is that more people can’t see it! It’s such an amazing couple of hours in the theater but there are only a limited number of seats
Riley: I’m on the whole, and I’m studying Lydia and the Girl Scout. I’ve been doing the show for almost a year and I absolutely love it. The only thing I’ll be willing to leave behind is all the makeup we as a set have to put on during the show. I love the song “The Whole “Being Dead” Thing, Part Two”. We are disguised as Beetlejuice clones. We get silly, and that’s one of the best parts.
What do you do/see when you come back to Michigan? What do you miss when you’re gone?
Colman: I always make a trip to Zingerman’s Deli when I’m home and always miss my family when I’m away.
Burton: Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor is my only mandatory stop. But I’ll also visit Ashley’s and Pizza House, and stroll around, take in the scenery. I don’t come back as often as I would like, so I’m very excited to see it all again and share it with some of my actors who have never been there!
Riley: I try to eat at every restaurant in Ann Arbor! I will be ordering feta bread from Pizza House as soon as I arrive. My dad also graduated from U of M, so we like to go to games together too.
What is your favorite musical and why? Dream show to play in?
Colman: I can’t say I have a favorite musical! There’s always something to love about every show I see and perform in. One show I would love to be on that I haven’t done yet is “Matilda.”
Burton: Honestly, Beetlejuice is pure musical comedy and that’s exactly what I like to do. I would love to do “The Producers” at some point. Every actor wants to do Sondheim, and one day I would like to be in “Company”. I also love singing and dancing roles, so I’d love to play Cosmo Brown in “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Riley: Honestly, I don’t have a favorite musical or dream show… I just can’t choose one.
Something you would like the public to know?
Burton: It may be a little more obscene than some think, but audiences love this show… Justin Collette, who plays Beetlejuice, incorporates a lot of improvisation, so the show changes every night. It’s the perfect combination of outrageous, outlandish comedy and a truly poignant story. Get ready for a wild ride.
Riley: There are surprises around every corner.
Colman: The show is definitely not suitable for young children… Beetlejuice actually asks if there are children in the audience at any given time. That said, there’s a lot of heart to the show and it’s a great family show for most middle schoolers and teenagers. Even fans familiar with the film should be prepared to be surprised. It’s light; it’s a laugh for a minute. It’s something we all need right now.
Last question: What do you order from Zingerman?
Colman: Tuna by Charlie M… I think it’s number 16 or 14 on the menu.
Burton: The Reuben with a half-sour pickle and a brownie. Zingerman is heaven!
Riley: The vegetarian sandwich that looks like a refined grilled cheese. Pickles, fries, and of course, lots of baked goods!
1526 Broadway, Detroit
From January 31 to February 12.