Jimmy Buffett’s musical Escape to Margaritaville officially opened on Broadway on March 15, and while some critics were not fans, I had a marg-fueled blast at the Marquis Theatre. Here’s why:
Paul Alexander Nolan
It’s about damn time Paul Alexander Nolan opened a star vehicle on Broadway. Let’s be real: Jesus is thankless in Superstar and Bright Star was Carmen Cusack’s vehicle. This original musical lets Paul deservedly shine and showcases him as a true quadruple threat. It’s also a bit of a culmination of everything we’ve seen from him: he is busting a serious dance move Zhivago style, and he accompanies himself on guitar for basically every song he sings even more than he had in Once. The score sits so well in his big voice, and he’s truly charming enough to sell the book and this beach bum character who everyone falls in love with over the course of their seven-day vacation. As a theatre fan following his career, it’s a joy to sit back and see him in a role tailor-made for his myriad of talents.
It’s the Laid Back Love Child of Mamma Mia! & Rock of Ages
I will grant you, this is not high art. It’s not Sondheim and LaChiusa, but everything doesn’t have to be. Sometimes you need the fun, silly, feel-good musicals that aren't also bio-musicals, and with Mamma Mia! and Rock of Ages no longer running in NYC, this fills that void. Also, Margaritaville is a nod to both in a way. Like in Mamma Mia!, there’s an impending wedding and a gorgeous island setting. And like in Rock of Ages, he’s an aspiring music star and she has dreams of her own, and it’s a will they/won’t they romance down to the wire. Yes, expect some corny jokes, but also expect moments that will have you bopping in your seat and unapologetically grinning despite yourself.
The Ladies of Margaritaville
Alison Luff, Lisa Howard, and Rema Webb deliver the vocals like there’s no tomorrow. These ladies are singing so the hotel guests upstairs can hear, and each is a delight to watch. I also appreciate that the show features strong women who put themselves first. Alison’s Rachel is a career-driven trailblazer and scientist who doesn’t accept no; Rema’s Marley is a female business owner who is a BOSS; and Lisa’s Tammy is on a journey of self-love and discovering her worth and finding a partner who truly loves and encourages her. And they all sing their faces off.
If there’s an ensemble you want to see in swimwear, dancing their fins off, it’s this one. Not only are they just a stunning group to take in, their energy helps sustain the musical—their dance during "Cheeseburger in Paradise" is everything. At any point, you can look at the island guests and witness a full side story happening. I had a blast finding Ryann Redmond, Justin Mortelliti, Brett Thiele and Angela Grovey at any given moment and watching them all doing their thing.
It’s All About the Vibe
Consider this a two and half hour vacation for yourself, and just dive into the lifestyle. If you fight against it, all you’ll see are flaws, but if you lean it, it’s a blast! Have a drink before and one more at intermission; bring the pen. Just chill out, block out NYC and your CNN/Washington Post news alerts, and succumb to the “One Particular Harbour” mood. “It's a magic kind of medicine That no doctor could prescribe.”
Escape to Margaritaville runs at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre.