REVIEW: ESCAPE FROM MARGARITAVILLE
the National Tour at the Denver Center
by Jessica Wilkinson
The best thing about art and entertainment is that it is subjective and that there is an audience for every artist’s vision and expression. Some audiences are just larger than others. Jimmy Buffet certainly has a large following of his laid back, island centric music because it’s more than just music, it is the embodiment of vacation. There aren’t many people out there who don’t like a frozen drink in the warm sun, listening to the waves crash with their toes in the sand. Anytime an artist creates a culture complete with its own moniker (Parrotheads) and style of music (Gulf and Western) it’s clear that they have built a very dedicated fan base, and that those fans have a community, and a very specific one at that. I admit not being a huge Jimmy Buffet fan to begin with, so I probably missed some of the nuances and nostalgia that most of the audience was experiencing, but I could see how its light-hearted, fuzzy vibe could be enjoyable.
Escape to Margaritaville is written to weave together some of Jimmy Buffet’s biggest hits and create a story to follow the songs. The play centers around a bar staff and their regulars at an island resort and two women, (Rachel and Tammy) who are on vacation before Tammy’s upcoming marriage to fiance’ Chadd. Rachel clearly is unimpressed with her friends suitor, who puts her on a diet for the impending nuptials, and is excited to get Tammy away from him for a couple of days of fun in the sun. Rachel herself is actually interested in collecting soil from the volcano and getting some samples to secure some research funding for a project. Much to her chagrin, the drinks start flowing as soon as the ladies arrive and almost immediately the bartender (Brick) takes a quick interest in Rachel as the house singer (Tully) who is modeled after Buffet himself, takes a liking to Tammy. Both romances take off pretty quickly and many of Buffet’s songs are woven into their beach love affairs, with the audience joining in the sing along. There were some almost too literal references during some of the songs, like actually looking for a lost shaker of salt during Margaritaville and eating a cheeseburger during Cheeseburger in Paradise, which just felt overdone. The audience didn’t seem to mind though, and almost everyone had a margarita in their hand which were offered in the lobby. The romances continue on with plenty of adventures rendezvous’ and even some ridiculous tattoo’s but before either man has a chance to reveal his true feelings, the women leave and the island gets word that the volcano is going to erupt and that everyone has to evacuate.
During the evacuation one of the regulars, JD, refuses to get on the rescue boat and instead goes to dig up his buried treasure , which up to this point the entire island crew had assumed was folklore. It was not and he also had a plane hidden on the island, giving everyone a chance to escape safely together. Brick and Tully confess their love for Rachel and Tammy and the crew flies to Cincinnati so that they guys can profess their feelings. As predicted by the happy go lucky soundtrack, everything works out and everyone ends up happy, successful and in love, with a second coming of the beloved Margartiaville bar as the closing scene.
Overall I think this show is about as fluffy, fun, potent and watery as a frozen margarita, it’s good for a moment, but it’s short lived. I’m sure a true Parrothead would have a completely different experience, and that’s what entertainment is all about.