Escape to Margaritaville will be just that for many folks. It is an escapist entertainment featuring the music of Jimmy Buffet. There is nothing original about the storyline, it’s a will they or won’t they with an A couple and a B couple. But it isn’t about the storyline, it’s about the execution and I think the writers Greg Garcia and Mike O’malley know that. They include a reference to The Taming of the Shrew early on, as if to acknowledge that everything is a variation of the works of Shakespeare, and their musical is no different. A show like Escape to Margaritaville exists so that an audience can go and have a good time, and that’s the only way to measure a show like this. Did the audience I was with have a good time? For that matter did I? The answer to both is yes. If you like the music of Jimmy Buffet, it’s hard to see how you wouldn’t have a blast with Escape to Margaritaville. For Drinkers there is a fun, if covid questionable additions, to this show. If you arrive early you can purchase drinks at the bar onstage, Margaritas and Landshark beers. If you arrive too late for that neat little add-on, you can get drinks from the bar to bring into the show.
Before I get to discussing the show let me get this out of the way. The encouraging of the alcohol, while show appropriate thematically, does have a downside. I don’t know if there was an influx of people who have never been to the theater attracted by the Jimmy Buffet music or if it was the alcohol, but I’ve never experienced so much audience discussion and talking during a performance. To be fair, in a pre-show announcement the cast does encourage that if you want to sing along or dance you should feel free to do so. Some sang, thankfully no one danced, but many of them had an opinion on what was happening on stage that they felt everyone should hear. This annoyed me, it would have driven my son to walk out. I’m guessing most people will react as I did or join in, but if you are perhaps someone for whom that can ruin an experience, probably skip this one. To quote a Transylvanian Count, I never drink….wine, but I do like the music of Jimmy Buffet. If you like Buffet’s music and have a taste for icky pop, you’ll have a blast, just please plan a sober ride. And hey, I want you to have a good time, but remember there are other people in the theater and more importantly performers on stage who can hear everything you say, sing, and burp.
The story follows the staff at an island resort called Margaritaville and two tourists Rachel and Tammy who have come for a last girls week before Tammy marries the comically repugnant Chad back in Cincinnati. the “A” couple is Tully, the resorts resident entertainer and Rachel, who has chosen this resort because the island contains a volcano which she wants to collect soil samples to assist with her research, she’s a very serious, no time for fun, scientist. You kinda just gotta go with it. The “B” Couple are Brick, the resort bartender with unresolved anxiety issues, and Tammy the bride to be. Tully and Rachel, spar at first but eventually spend the week falling in love. Brick and Tammy spend the week flirting and resisting temptation. At the end of the week the girls leave, the boys are sad, and the volcano erupts! Along for the ride are the resort manager Marley and J.D. a 76 year old drunk pilot whom Marley has grounded for everyone’s safety. Will Tully, Brick, Marley and J.D. escape the island? Will Tully and Brick ever be reunited with their lost loves? Will Tammy marry Chad? Will Rachel get to do science? Will Tully ever make it big as a singer songwriter? I think you know the answer to everyone of these questions now don’t you? But, again, it’s not about the what it’s about, in the case of a musical comedy, it’s about the jokes and the performances.
I really had a great time with the entire cast, everyone equites themselves well vocally. Ryan Lee as Tully and Amanda Mai as Tammy in particular made strong impressions. Maureen O’Malley as Rachel and Same Stoll as Brick also sang well with Stoll also showing of some fun dance moves. Mike Tober as J.D. is a hoot, he and Kia Brown as Marley have several fun scenes together, foremost an interactive with the audience performance of “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw”. Finally a little shout out to Max Kile who plays Chad, perfectly caricaturing the frat boy ,self centered, video game obsessed, thoughtless, and boorishly sexist slacker fiance.
Also I want to praise the wonderfully lively band under the musical direction of Kyle Baker. The music really pops and it has a fun island feel to it that oddly didn’t get anyone up and out of their seats to dance. Director Eric Morris has done a nice job of staging the show that’s basically one set, using the tables and chairs and other props to simulate every other location including a couple of plans. The second star of the show is the scenic and light design by Erik Paulson I really loved this set. The backdrop which used lighting very effectively to create gorgeous vistas for the action to play out in front of and helped create the illusion of an island resort. I really like how they used lighting to illustrate the volcano erupting, very effective.
Escape to Margaritaville runs through August 27th at the Old Log Theatre for more information and to purchase tickets go to http://www.oldlog.com/.
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