Interview with Escape to Margaritaville star Paul Alexander Nolan
Drama Desk Award nominee Paul Alexander Nolan has had quite the Broadway career so far since making his debut in the iconic titular role of the 2012 revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar. He went on to assume the starring role of Guy in the Tony Award-winning Best Musical Once, before joining the original Broadway casts of Doctor Zhivago and Bright Star, whilst also finding the time to "razzle dazzle 'em" as Billy Flynn in Chicago. Now the talented performer finds himself at Broadway's Marquis Theatre eight shows a week, serenading audiences (and "parrotheads" alike) with the greatest hits of Jimmy Buffett, wearing Hawaiian shirts, a colourful lei and flip flops, and holding a margarita in one hand and a cheeseburger in paradise in the other. We recently caught up with Mr. Nolan to get his thoughts on his starring role as Tully in the new Broadway musical Escape to Margaritaville!
What would you say is the main thing audiences can expect from Escape to Margaritaville, Paul?
They can expect to drink a margarita and have a great time with us!
You’ve been with this show since the beginning stages. What have been some of your personal highlight along the way?
Oh, I’ve had so many! I think this year has been the busiest year of my life! I’ve done things I never expected to do. I sang with Jimmy Buffett in Islamorada last March. I sang with him again at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in Toronto in August for around 20,000 people, I think. We spent a bunch of time on the beach in La Jolla together with my wife, who is also in the show. We’ve gotten to see four U.S. cities that we wouldn’t have ever seen together. The list is huge.
Were you familiar with Jimmy Buffett’s music beforehand? Were you already a parrothead or are you a newborn parrothead?
No, I’m newborn. I’m a baby parrot! [Laughs]
In what ways do you think Escape to Margaritaville could possibly appeal to a broader demographic than just Jimmy’s loyal fanbase of parrotheads?
Well that was the big focus of our team of writers and the director. We wanted to make sure we didn’t just create something that was scratching the anticipation of the Parrot Head crowd. Of course, they are very loyal people and they’ve been waiting patiently for this. But it was important for us to have a story with integrity and themes that matter now and we have done that. So, I would say that it’s been a big success.
Are there many similarities between yourself and your character of Tully?
When they asked me to audition, I thought: “Hmmmm I don’t think that’s a good fit for me.” I do a lot of very serious and messed up characters. I don’t know why I’m getting asked to play all these twisted and tortured people. I don’t know if that says anything about me [laughs] but when this came along, I thought: “I don’t know if I can do that. Why do they think that I’ll be good at that?” But that’s been a theme in my career – I often don’t think I’ll be good for a certain part. I just trust the people that ask me to come for the ride and I step into the shoes… or in this case, the flip-flops! [laughs]
Has it been a nice change for you then to portray someone a little more laid back than your usual roles?
It has! You can’t play parts for your entire career that go through as much grief as the ones I have done here in New York. You’d just burn out. So, this has been really fun. The biggest part of my job now is to bring people joy and a sense of adventure in their lives.
Speaking of bringing joy, the show's slogan says it’s “More than a musical. It’s a way of life.” How is it a way of life? Is it in everyone’s contracts to eat cheeseburgers and drink piña coladas after every show?
[Laughs] I wish! I should have a cheeseburger after every show. But I also have to have my shirt off in every show, so that’s not happening!
Escape to Margaritaville Tickets are available now for performances through to November 18, 2018.