Grief, Growth, and Ghosts: Jesse Sharp on Bringing Depth to Charles Deetz in Beetlejuice’s Louisville Run


Get ready, Louisville! It’s time to say “Beetlejuice” three times and unleash a whirlwind of laughter, heart, and ghostly shenanigans at the Kentucky Center from May 14-19, 2024.

When Beetlejuice: The Musical arrives, Louisville audiences will have the chance to experience a show that masterfully balances laughter with genuine emotion. Based on Tim Burton’s beloved 1988 cult classic film, this musical adaptation pays homage to its source material while delighting new audiences and long-time fans alike with its expanded storyline and unforgettable performances.


One of the key pieces of this production is Jesse Sharp, who brings depth and nuance to the role of Charles Deetz, a man grappling with loss and change in the midst of ghostly chaos. In the original film, Charles was a supporting character obsessed with the aesthetics of his new home. However, the musical delves deeper into his personal journey, exploring his relationship with his daughter Lydia and his struggle to move forward after the death of his wife.


Sharp’s portrayal of Charles Deetz has won over fans of the film for its ability to balance the character’s comedic moments with unexpectedly more vulnerable and emotional scenes. His performance adds a new layer of depth to the story, allowing audiences to connect with Charles on a more profound level. As Sharp himself notes, “I think what I connect with in Charles is what audiences connect with in our show.”

From the Netherworld to the Stage


Much like Charles Deetz’s unexpected foray into the world of the supernatural, Jesse Sharp’s theatrical career has been a journey filled with diverse roles and memorable experiences. With credits spanning from the quirky Addams Family to the cheerful Buddy in Elf, Sharp’s acting repertoire is as varied as the ghosts haunting the Maitland-Deetz home. In addition to his stage work, Sharp has appeared on television shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Blue Bloods, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.


It’s this breadth of experience that has allowed Sharp to navigate the comedic and dramatic elements of this role. “I love the opportunity to do a silly, over-the-top comedic musical with truth and humanity,” Sharp shares. “I get to do both comedy and deep, truthful acting with a lot of heart [all] in one show – and that’s really rare.”


This balance is evident throughout Beetlejuice: The Musical, as Charles Deetz’s journey is filled with both laughter and loss.


Those familiar with Burton’s 1988 film will notice adaptation differences immediately at the top. Not only is Charles not married at the beginning, but Emily, his deceased wife, is more of a presence. In fact, we begin at Emily’s funeral. “In the musical, [her death] is very recent,” Sharp explains. “The audience understands what Charles and Lydia have been through and what they’re trying to overcome. And I think you understand Lydia’s needs a little more than in the movie. You realize she’s not ready to move on. She’s really dealing with this.”


While there are some plot adjustments, Sharp reassures audiences that “nothing is changed of what you love about the characters. The characters are all there, the core is all there, but their motivations, their goals allow for more character development throughout the musical.”


Just as the movie is known for its strikingly iconic visuals, the musical is making a mark by exploring who these characters are in the face of grief – all while making audiences laugh!


From Haunted Houses to Haunting Hearts


Beneath the flashy special effects, the uproarious comedy, and the catchy musical numbers lies the true spirit of Beetlejuice: a story of love, loss, and the unbreakable bonds of family.


Charles Deetz is at the center of this emotional journey. Audiences immediately recognize a man struggling to connect with his grieving daughter all while grappling with his own sense of inadequacy and uncertainty.


One of the most poignant moments comes in Act 2 when Charles and Lydia finally confront the emotional walls that have been separating them. “Charles and Lydia have a really touching scene where a lot of the struggles they’ve been having get resolved,” Sharp reveals. “It’s a beautiful, moving scene in the middle of a chaotic, comedic musical – it takes the audience by surprise.”


This scene, and others like it throughout the musical, serve as a reminder that even in the face of the most absurd and supernatural circumstances, it is the human connections that truly matter.


“Charles needed to have his world shaken up,” Sharp explains. “He needed to buy a haunted house. He needed to go to the netherworld. It’s kind of a beautiful thing.”


Sharp suggests that if Charles hadn’t been thrust into these extraordinary circumstances, his emotional stagnation would have continued, untouched by the personal growth that the storyline pushes him towards. “Beetlejuice is this massive disruption,” Sharp adds. The intrusion of the supernatural forces the characters to confront their grief and evolve beyond it, offering a mirror to the audience’s own experiences with loss and change.


If Sharp could offer Charles advice at the outset of the musical, it would be simple yet profound: “Allow yourself time to grieve.”


This advice, though Sharp notes that following it would hardly leave any room for the musical’s plot, touches on a universal truth. Many individuals busy themselves to avoid confronting their pain, a behavior Charles exemplifies as he tries to remodel his new home and court investors, masking his underlying grief with busyness and denial.


“The music is great and the laughs are endless, but what makes a musical like this sell out every show?” asks Sharp.


With over 500 performances over the last year and a half under his belt, Sharp suggests that audiences are drawn, perhaps even subconsciously, to the genuine emotional journeys of the characters—journeys that promise more than just laughter but a cathartic experience. “It’s the pathos,” he says.

Laughter is the Best Medicine


For all its heart, Beetlejuice: The Musical is still a frighteningly funny time.


“I know the show so well, and I still laugh every night. I break on stage when I’m not supposed to,” Sharp admits.


For Sharp, bringing Beetlejuice: The Musical to Louisville holds a special significance. His wife, Lexie Dorsett Sharp, has performed at the Kentucky Center multiple times, including a run of School of Rock. “I love Louisville,” Sharp shares as we wrap up. “We’re coming into town a few days early to do some bourbon tasting, visit friends.”


Don’t miss your chance to experience the magic of Beetlejuice: The Musical at the Kentucky Center from May 14-19, 2024. Tickets are available now. Tickets are limited and available at or by calling 502-584-7777.


By Daniel Chioco