Shines a Spotlight on ‘Strange and Unusual’ Lydia Deetz. Sophia Anne Caruso again shows she’s ‘not the girl next door’ in uproarious adaptation.

Countless angst-y teenage girls felt a deep kinship with young goth goddess Winona Ryder in her portrayal of Lydia Deetz in Tim Burton’s 1988 movie “Beetlejuice.” The cult classic’s stage adaptation—under the direction of Alex Timbers—will undoubtedly inspire similar fandom, with young leading lady Sophia Anne Caruso bringing more heart and hilarity to the role in its raucous revamp, alongside a larger-than-life Alex Brightman in the title role. Born in Spokane, Washington, Caruso’s already illustrious career has included portraying Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker” directed by Patty Duke, along with Lucille Lortel award nominations for performances in off-Broadway’s “The Nether” and David Bowie’s “Lazarus” at New York Theatre Workshop—a role she later reprised in London to garner a What’s On Stage Award nomination—among other credits. Her Broadway debut came alongside Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels as The Girl in David Harrower’s “Blackbird.” The teen powerhouse performer whose homebase is in the Garden State took a break from her busy schedule to chat about the show, what it’s like growing up in show business and the best vegan spots around the city.

DININGOUT: Is “Beetlejuice” as much fun for the cast as it is for the audience? What is the dynamic like among the cast?

Sophia Anne Caruso: I hope it’s as much fun for the audience as it is for the cast. We have a blast up there every night. Alex Brightman [who plays Beetlejuice] and I have a really great connection. We are always goofing off in rehearsals and on stage; he and I just play. We keep it fresh. He’s really funny, and I just love working with him. Same with Leslie Kritzer [Deelia Deetz] and the rest of the cast. We all really love each other.

Is that something that happens with every cast you work with, or is it more of a rarity?

I think a lot of people would say it’s a rarity. For me, I usually work really hard to try to make sure I have a good connection with whoever I’m spending most of my stage time with. I’ve never really had a problem creating connections with people. With some people, it’s instant. With others, I have to work a little harder but for Alex and I, it was pretty instant when we met. We have a great relationship. He’s like a cool older brother. His dressing room is right next to mine and if both of our doors are open, we’ll talk to each other from our rooms. He’s super funny. He likes to have a drink after the show, and I love watermelon juice, so I give him watermelon juice. We’re just pals.

You started acting professionally when you were 9. How did that come about?

People always ask when or how I started acting, and it’s hard to say, because I’ve always been very dramatic; I’ve always been a little drama queen. I always loved putting on shows for my family when I was a little girl. My mom owned a business and she used to donate vintage clothing to the theater in my hometown for the period pieces, and she had a lot of friends in the theater. She was always busy working, so sometimes she would drop me off at the theater with her friends she knew, and I just loved the environment, I loved the people. I ended up really wanting to be on stage. I started doing regional theater then, and my first professional production when I was 9 was “The Miracle Worker” with Patty Duke. I kind of kept going from there.

Only a year later, you moved to New York.

Yeah, my mom and I moved to New York when I was about 10 and my dad followed four years later. Finally, my dad was like, “Are you guys ever coming home?” and we were like, “No, probably not.” And he sold the house and came to live with us.

Wow. When you and your mom made that move, was there a role waiting for you?

Yes. I was cast in a developmental thing for a project, and we thought I was only going to be there for a month or so. And I ended up just booking work after that. For a while, I didn’t stop working.

Being a child actor is fascinating to me, because it must be so different from a “typical” childhood experience. What has that been like for you?

I never got along with people my age very well. I always was friends with adults. I did online schooling and graduated when I was 16. I think that there’s a certain social experience that could be lost for some. For me it really wasn’t, because I don’t find anything at all to relate to with people my age. I spend most of my time with adults, and I suppose I never really had a “childhood,” because I was always working or doing something, and I think that’s for the better for me. People tell me I’m an old soul. I don’t have any friends that are younger than me. I’ve always been attracted to older people as friends. Most of my friends are people I’ve worked with.

It seems a lot of your characters have had dark or sort of tragic elements to them or to their lives. Are these roles that you’ve sought out, or is that just coincidental?

I’m very particular about the work I choose, and I like to choose thought-provoking projects. But I think I’ve always been more drawn to these characters. I never liked playing the girl next door, because I’m not the girl next door. In what I play, I think I work best as not that sort of plain Jane girl. I’m not a manic pixie dream girl; that’s not what I play. Obviously, it’s difficult for me to say because I’m me, but I think a lot of the qualities I have tend to draw me to those characters and them to me. I’m kind of known within the industry in New York for playing those roles, so when there is one of those roles, I typically am called about it. You could call it typecast, but it’s not in a negative way. It’s what I like to do; it’s what I typically do.

Beetlejuice” has that comedic element. Is comedy new to you?

I don’t really do a lot of comedy; however, I’m in a huge musical comedy right now, which is funny. I always think that I’m not funny, and then people tell me, “Oh, you’re so funny.” I don’t really see myself as a funny person, but apparently I am, according to my cast mates and friends. It’s interesting to work on a comedy, and gaining that confidence with comedy has been interesting to me, but really fun.

What are some of your favorite restaurants?

I’m a vegan, so I don’t eat animal products. That’s kind of a moral thing for me. It’s part of my rule book. I don’t really identify with a certain religion but if I did, I would probably identify most with Buddhism. The heart of that is causing no harm to any other being, and I think that applies to animals. If an animal can feel pain, I don’t feel like it’s appropriate to be eating it if you don’t need it to live. Also, it’s the only way that we’re going to save our environment, and it’s so much better for your health. Even if you just focus on cutting out one meal of meat from your day, that’s making progress.

I will tell you some of my favorites in the city, because I spend most of my time in Manhattan. My favorite restaurant is probably The Organic Grill. It’s down on 1st Avenue and 7th Street. It’s a tiny little nook owned by this guy and his family. Every time I go in, they know me and they know my favorite. They’re so amazing, and they make the most incredible vegan food. They switch up the menu all the time and it’s super fresh. I also love abcv. It’s really, really good. It’s vegetarian but most of it’s vegan, so it’s great for people who need to find a place that is suitable for vegans and also people who aren’t.

I drink juice every day, so I love any place that has juice. In Hoboken, there’s a Bare Burger and I eat there a lot. It’s so good.

My friend owns a vegan restaurant down in Belmar called Kaya’s Kitchen, so if you ever make it down there, he does amazing stuff.

That’s incredible. Champs Diner in Brooklyn is really cool. I love them. Probably my favorite vegan, kind of funky spot would be Screamer’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn. It’s 100% vegan and it’s incredible. They make the most crazy, wild vegan pizzas. I also love Beyond Sushi. They have those all over New York.

One of my favorite coffee shops is called Coffee Project, down by the New York Theatre Workshop, a block away from where I did “Lazarus.” It’s owned by two women, and they are just so cool. They opened a second location in Brooklyn. They have nitrogen-infused coffee and it is amazing. I highly recommend it. It’s a female-run small business, so I really love going there.

This doesn’t really count as a restaurant, but the one thing I can think of in Jersey is in the summertime, there’s a street fruit vendor, but he’s not just any street fruit vendor. He is in North Bergen off JFK Boulevard. He has the best fruit I’ve ever had. He sells papayas, which are my favorite summer fruit. In fact, I still have some from this past summer in my freezer, because I just love them so much. He’ll crack a coconut open right there for you. That’s probably the one thing in Jersey for food that I’m like, “Oh my God.”

Catch a performance of “Beetlejuice” at the Winter Garden Theater {1634 Broadway, New York City}. For more information or tickets, visit or call Telecharge at 212.239.6200.

By Jessica D’Amico