WHAT “Escape to Margaritaville”
WHERE Marquis Theatre, 210 W. 46th St.
INFO $79-$249; 877-250-2929, escapetomargaritavillemusical.com
BOTTOM LINE Frothy drink of a musical celebrating the music of Jimmy Buffett.
If the theater at Jones Beach ever reverts to its theatrical roots, “Escape to Margaritaville” is an obvious choice for the opening production.
The Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical, with its bustling margarita concession and tiki bar decor, would only benefit from the light of the moon and the sounds of the surf.
The delightful, energetic frothy drink of a show that just opened at the Marquis Theatre is exactly what you’d expect given its inspiration — a predictable romantic comedy that celebrates the music written and/or performed by the renowned singer who’s turned his laid-back island sound into a serious corporate empire.
Put the songs together and you could almost come up with the story yourself: Rachel (Alison Luff, full of life), a workaholic young scientist intent on changing the world, brings her best friend, Tammy (a fine comedic turn from Lisa Howard), on a bachelorette weekend to the Margaritaville Hotel & Bar, a past-its-prime Caribbean resort without basic necessities like 500-thread-count sheets and, oh, the horror, Wi-Fi. The hotel’s resident Lothario/guitarist, Tully (a fine Paul Alexander Nolan playing the Buffett figure), had never met a woman he wasn’t happy to say goodbye to. Surely you can guess where this goes.
Writers Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley and director Christopher Ashley have cleverly worked Buffett’s biggest hits into the story: Tully sings “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” to the arriving vacationers, encouraging them to get the party started even though it’s only 10 in the morning. Tammy’s jerk of a fiance (a very funny Eric Petersen) and his pals sing “Fins” as they warn about guys who might try to hit on the vacationing duo. Tammy’s humorous take on “Cheeseburger in Paradise” is a pitiful lament about the diet forced on her by that fiance. Rachel is wonderfully wistful in “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” and when Tully does “Margaritaville,” it starts out as a sorrowful ballad about the girl who got away.
Buffett fans, of course, are out in force, enjoying the inside jokes (that lost salt shaker!), dancing along to “Fins” (apparently, the movements are well known) and joining in on the singing when invited and when not. But everyone else will quickly get into the island vibe and have a great time, as long as they don’t expect too much from a show where yet another volcano erupts (you have some competition, “SpongeBob”), the beach balls fly and the drinks are more colorful than the costumes.