Buffett and Broadway

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A breezy, carefree island mood is established way before you settle into your seats at Escape to Margaritaville, the Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical at the Marquis Theatre. There’s  a tropical background outside of the theatre for photo opps, tiki bar furniture, string lights, flowers and Adirondack chairs steps away from the entrance. With a push for theatre-goers to purchase specialty drinks (the obvious margarita) to enjoy during the show, it is clear that the producers are setting up an opportunity for several hours of wasting away.

First the good news. The choreography by Kelly Devine is great and enjoyable to watch.

The voices of all the performers are top notch and excellent. However, given the really amateurish book they had to work with, I often felt sorry for the actors, having to deliver the dialogue which feels like it is always winking at the audience, or maybe pulling on its collective sleeve saying “see how clever we are.” If only that were true. The dialogue and the arc of the story is perfect for entertainment on a cruise ship, but falls way short of the caliber of Broadway.

I will say that the second act was better than the first, and of course, the show ends with the release of beach balls to make sure that we all knew we had a good time.

The well known Jimmy Buffett songs are sort of shoe horned into the script. The story, fairly simple.

Tully, (Paul Alexander Nolan) a bar singer at the Margaritaville Hotel somewhere in the Caribbean, has no interest in having a deep relationship with any of the numerous lovely ladies who visit the resort and clamor to have a fling with him. That is, until he meets Rachel, (Allison Luff) a super smart, serious scientist who turns him into mush. Rachel is there with her best friend, Tammy, (Lisa Howard) as part of a bachelorette sendoff, with Tammy’s wedding just about a week away.

At the hotel, Rachel admits that she hates Tammy’s finance, because he criticizes Tammy all the time. Although Tammy defends her soon to be hubby, the moment she arrives, she meets Brick, (Eric Petersen) a sweet bartender at the resort, and the sparks fly. As those two cuties flirt,  Tully is doing his best to get Rachel to let her hair down and enjoy the island… and Tully’s attention.

Then there is J.D (Don Sparks) an old, crusty guy with an eye patch who keeps looking for his shaker of salt, and interacts with Marley (Rema Webb), the proprietor of the resort.

Escape to Margaritaville Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

Throw in a volcano, and some apparitions of insurance sales people who perished in the island’s last volcano (they do have a great tap dancing number and costume change that is pretty fabulous, but you scratch your head as to why this convention is even in the show.) The women leave the island to go back to Cincinnati for the wedding, and due to the volcano, J.D. and the gang fire up an old buried plane and fly to Cincinnati to the very bar where the rehearsal dinner is taking place to scoop up the women they fell in love with.

Add a plate of cheeseburgers,  (ah, perfect to set up to “Cheeseburger in Paradise”) sprinkle in the theme of self-love and acceptance, and that is the size of the book.

Hey, if you like Jimmy Buffett songs, and you want to spend an evening to get away from the heavy news that we consume on a daily basis while downing a margarita or two, (careful, they are super sweet) then this shows works just fine for you. I mean, sometimes we all need a change of attitude.  http://escapetomargaritavillemusical.com/


  • Five-time Billboard Award-winning media personality Valerie Smaldone is a theatre, food, lifestyle and entertainment enthusiast. She is a celebrity interviewer, accomplished voice-over artist and actress. Recent appearances on episodic tv include Law and Order, Criminal Intent, The Other Two (on HBO Max), Tommy, Manifest and Blue Bloods. She is an audiobook narrator and producer. A live event emcee, moderator, and "Voice of God" at events and award ceremonies, Valerie has joined The Story Plant Entertainment Company and is currently working on a film and Broadway play. Visit her website at www.valeriesmaldone.com

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