“Escape to Margaritaville,” now playing at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, bundles the songs of Jimmy Buffett with a light story of romance and finding one’s purpose in life.
As a Broadway musical it delivers on its promise of an entertaining evening featuring music you know and uncomplex characters who are easy to care about. It’s a show that doesn’t ask a lot of the audience other than be willing to have a good time.
At the core of the story are two cute, predictable romances. It was easy to become invested in the lives of Rachel and Tully, and Tammy and Brick and even though you know they’ll end up together in the end.
The book cleverly took hints from the lyrics of Jimmy Buffet’s songs to fill in the details of its story. The first act is essentially two dozen small Chekov’s guns going off. Then in the second act and when you hear the song there is a battery of ah-ha moments.
“Escape to Margaritaville” is a traveling Broadway show, so part of the fun for me is seeing how various set pieces, props, and costumes are used throughout the show. Keep your eyes open for fun twists created via the stage furniture. “Margaritaville” does not have the highest production value for even a touring show. That said, the light style suits the songs.
It’s also a fun conceit to have the live band right on stage. It keeps the show just one or two degrees away from a concert feel, which is what Jimmy Buffet fans are most used to enjoying anyway.
The songs are very recognizable, of course. You’ve heard them as the soundtrack to your life but because of the way they are plotted into the show, it’s not really a sing-along atmosphere like you might find at a concert, except for certain moments where the cast specifically brings the audience into the show.
If you are a fan who likes to sing along, be sure to stay for the curtain call, then by all means join in boisterously.
Stand out performers tonight included Peter Michael Jordan (Brick) who takes his first big Broadway touring role and delivers not just a show stopping dance number but most of the comedy relief. As for dance ability, he is no Donald O’Conner, but the energy level was there, so you didn’t really mind.
Sarah Hinrichsen, who played the lead Rachel, had the biggest character arc to play and acquitted herself well on the show’s more challenging songs as well. She and Patrick Clark, who played the other lead Tully, had a very nice chemistry, if not quite harmony.
Other standout performances came from Rachel Lyn Fobbs, who stole the spotlight every time she was on stage as Marley. Patrick Cogan was great as the persistent and wise J.D., and Matthew Sherrod did a lot with a relatively small role in Jamal.
“Escape to Margaritaville” will almost certainly put one in the mood to travel to a Caribbean Island, meet a stranger, and dance until dawn.
It’s also nice to attend a Broadway show where the attire of a Hawaiian shirt and shorts is not frowned upon and may even be expected.
You can still “Escape to Margaritaville” in upcoming performances through November 17, part of the FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando series at the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts, in the Walt Disney Theatre.
For tickets, visit DrPhillipsCenter.org.
[photo credits: Matthew Murphy]
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