Escape to Margaritaville on Broadway

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater and film critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

Did I want to escape from ‘Escape to Margaritaville’ on Broadway? That’s a bit strong- but I will tell you (speaking of strong) the margarita I had was really good- and it did make the show seem better.

 My margarita. (It helped.)

The story is dopey… in more than one sense of the word as I wondered what the writers were smoking. Please pardon the ‘dopey’ pun but if you think that is bad many of the puns in the actual show are far worse.

Director Christopher Ashley, who won a Tony Award for ‘Come From Away’ last year, does good work with the ensemble, given the script he has to work with. Still, with a book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley, both of whom have experience with several television series, ‘Margaritaville’ is basically a weak sitcom- though I do give the writers credit for how they got all of Buffett’s hit songs to fit in- not an easy feat in a jukebox musical.

That the story is weak isn’t a surprise- but what is a surprise is how talented the main leads are.

 Paul Alexander Nolan, Alison Luff; playbill.com

Paul Alexander Nolan is Tully, the likable, laid back entertainer on a run-down island resort.

Nolan captures the vibe of being laid back so well you don’t see all the hard work he put in to make it look effortless- kind of like Jimmy Buffett himself- as Buffett has worked hard his whole career to build an empire promoting the laid back, “why work?” lifestyle.

Nolan has a great singing voice- he sounds like Jimmy Buffett in his prime.

Alison Luff plays Rachel, his love interest. She’s a capable and likable lead who also has a terrific voice. Both have other Broadway credits and have now risen to lead roles- deservedly so. Rachel is a smart environmentalist, trying to get her startup funded so she can make cars run on… potatoes.

 Eric Petersen, Lisa Howard; broadway in chicago

They each have sidekicks, of course, and those are played by Lisa Howard, as Tammy- Rachel’s best friend- and Eric Petersen as Brick, Tully’s best friend. They’re likable, too- even if they are stereotypes. Tammy is the overweight one trying to diet for her impending wedding to a lout and Brick is Tully’s not-so-bright bartender best buddy.

Anyway, Rachel suggests Tully cut a demo because he really is a good singer. No surprise both their careers start to take off and… ah, enough with the set up.

I could tell you what happens to the sidekicks, Tammy and Brick, but that’s even more predictable than Tully and Rachel’s romance. Any fun in the show is not in the story, it’s in the leads and the songs- and maybe the drinks. There’s a subplot with minor characters that touches on what’s really important in life but, like a character who’s a pilot, it doesn’t fly well.

 image: broadway.com

How dopey is it?

They actually had a dance number- no, two– with dead insurance agents. And they tap danced. I’m not kidding- it’s in Act 2. Maybe they figured the audience would be drunk by then and it wouldn’t matter. That number features perhaps the fastest costume changes on Broadway- but it still doesn’t make any sense.

There is talented musicianship on display (steel drums are there, of course) and most of the Buffett songs come across well. What will “Parrotheads”- the name for Buffett’s legion of fans- think? I brought a friend who is one and he liked the music, but said they ruined ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise.’ He enjoyed the show but even he admitted the margaritas- yes, he had two- helped.

Still, if you don’t mind the bad story, the music and the likable, talented four lead actors make it more fun than it should be and I give ‘Escape to Margaritaville’ 2 1/2 stars out of five. It probably should be a 2- but the margarita helped.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews.

This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”

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