Escape To Margaritaville
The Jimmy Buffett musical makes a stop in Chicago before moving on to the bright lights of Broadway
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IT looked like Escape to Margaritaville would be the second best thing to a Jimmy Buffett concert, that is, until on opening night at the Oriental Theatre, Buffet showed up during the curtain call––guitar in hand––and performed two of his most popular songs, including the classic “Margaritaville.”
That was one of the highlights of the night, and those highlights began to become evident before the pre-Broadway show even started. Many of those in attendance came dressed in the usual tropical-themed attire that’s so visible at a Buffet concert––parrotheads, island shirts, blinking necklaces, colorful leis, shark-fin headgear, seashell bras over T-shirts and brightly colored sundresses. Even the theater ushers were outfitted in a variety of Hawaiian shirts, and the lobby had been turned into an environment of island-like tables covered by grass umbrellas. Inside, before the curtain went up, the beach scene included a collection of colorful beach balls flying through the air with each punch from the energetic audience members.
The fun continued on stage in a production that has established a storyline featuring some of Buffett’s biggest songs, including “Margaritaville,” “Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “5 O’clock Somewhere,” “Come Monday” and “Volcano.” Escape to Margaritaville, directed by Tony Award-winner Christopher Ashley, is designed for the audience to have a good time. It’s one of those presentations––especially if you’re a Buffett fan––that is an unadulterated stress-reliever. In fact, Paul Alexander Nolan, who plays the singer-songwriter Tully at the Caribbean hotel, says succinctly: “My job is to teach people how to relax."
Escape to Margaritaville, running through December 2 and arrives on Broadway in February, is wacky, sometimes silly, but all times entertaining. As the lead entertainer at the lively resort, Nolan’s character has the chance to enjoy affairs with arriving tourists who are looking for a good time. But things change when Rachel (Alison Luff) arrives and Tully quickly becomes a one-woman man. The fun surrounds the fact that the two are opposites––he, a happy-go-lucky entertainer, and she, a serious environmental scientist with hopes of saving the planet. But it’s not just the relationship between those two that’s in the spotlight. The show also highlights the budding romance between bartender Brick (Eric Petersen) and Rachel’s friend Tammy (Lisa Howard), who’s not at all happy with her highly insensitive fiancé who continuously prods her to seriously diet so she can fit into a smaller wedding dress. Then there’s the connection between J.D. (Don Sparks), an older but spry character who has his eyes set on Marley (Rema Webb).
Aside from the characters, the scenic design by Walt Spangler is spot-on, giving an authentic feel of an island resort, and the lush jungle scene surrounding an active volcano is a major plus. Additionally, in the midst of all the activity on stage by a large ensemble, one of the memorable moments––among several choreographic gems by Tony Award-nominee Kelly Devine––is a dance by ash-covered insurance salesmen and women (now zombies) after the volcano eruption.
Despite popular thought, Escape to Margaritaville is not all Jimmy Buffett tunes all the time, although the music is the engine that drives this play. “It [the musical] is not much different than what we do at our other job [concerts],” Buffett says, “but I thought it was very natural to have something fun and entertaining, especially in these days and times.” Audiences agree that he made a good choice. Escape to Margaritaville is, as they say, “More than a musical. It’s a way of life.”
During the curtain call on opening night at the Oriental Theatre, Jimmy Buffett (center) joined the cast of Escape to Margaritaville to perform two songs.
In Escape to Margaritaville, the three love stories focus on the characters of (above) Peter Alexander Nolan and Alison Luff, (below) Eric Petersen and Lisa Howard, and (bottom) Don Sparks and Rema Webb.
Individual tickets for Escape to Margaritaville are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph Street, 151 W. Randolph Street, 18 W. Monroe Street and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000 and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com. Tickets also are available for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.