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NYTG at the Official Opening of Escape to Margaritaville on Broadway
New York Theatre Guide attends Opening Night for the Broadway premiere of Jimmy Buffett's jukebox musical Escape to Margaritaville at the Marquis Theatre.
Yesterday morning, acclaimed singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett sent out a mini love letter to Broadway with the following words ahead of the official opening of Escape to Margaritaville:
“It’s a cold morning in New York City, but inside the Marquis Theatre — where we’re about to open Escape to Margaritaville — it’s 80 degrees and 5 o’clock. A lot of people have said over the years that Margaritaville isn’t a place, it’s a state of mind. Now I know that the same is true of Broadway. It’s the most exciting street in the middle of the greatest island in the whole entire world.”
And with that, he added a Broadway musical to his ever-growing empire of a résumé which includes hit records, as well as restaurant chains, beer production, video games, and casinos, to name just a few.
The New York Theatre Guide was invited to attend last night's opening of the new jukebox musical which - true to form - resembled a beach party bash at both the Marquis Theatre with its sky blue carpet, palm trees and deck chairs and at the aftershow party at Pier Sixty at the Chelsea Piers, where margaritas and cheeseburgers (in paradise) were served up in their plentifuls. Amidst chilly temperatures, escapism - as the title suggests - was certainly the name of the game last night. Indeed, when it comes to this musical comedy, loyal parrotheads (the affectionate term for Buffett's army of fans) and undiscovered parrotheads are encouraged to leave their thinking caps by the coat check, help themselves to a rum punch and relax to enjoy a show that is about as mentally taxing as the island lifestyle it so lovingly depicts.
We had the opportunity to speak to the show's stars last night, including leading man Paul Alexander Nolan (as smooth-talking bartender Tully), Alison Luff (as environmental scientist Rachel), Lisa Howard (as mismatched Bride-to-be Tammy) and Eric Petersen (as her eventual suitor Brick), to find out what audiences can expect from this piña colada-fueled musical comedy.
"You can expect to laugh, feel emotional and really just kick back and have a great time at the theatre," says Eric Petersen, wearing a spanking, violet suit. "It doesn’t require a lot of brainwaves – I mean, I don’t want to undersell the show – but it really is about coming and letting the experience of the show, the comedy, the dancing and the love story just wash over you and you’ll have a great time."
Lisa Howard promised we could look forward to "traveling to a tropical island, seeing several romances bud, a lot of laughs, a lot of awesome Jimmy Buffett songs, some great dancing and beautiful sets" and PauI Alexander Nolan stated emphatically that audiences can "expect to drink a margarita and have a great time with us!," whilst his onstage love interest Alison Luff added she could "confidently say they can expect a good time. It’s 2 hours and 15 minutes of a story that you’re not going to expect will pull you in as much as it does. It’s a boy meets girl story with a lot of comedy and an amazing book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley."
One thing they all agree on then is that audiences are in for nothing but good vibes and a good time. However, not all of these Broadway stars were as familiar with Mr. Buffett's back catelogue of hits before this Margaritaville venture began, as they obviously are now, performing them eight shows a week on the Great White Way. Paul Alexander Nolan describes himself as a "newborn, baby parrot," as does Lisa Howard, whilst Alison Luff confesses: "I wouldn’t say I was a hardcore parrothead per se, but I was definitely a Jimmy Buffett fan before this, yes." But for Eric Petersen, he was seemingly born to play this role, as he tells me about his life-long obsession with all things Buffett: "I grew up as an enormous parrothead! I went to see his concerts probably eight or nine times when I was a kid and listened to his music all the time. I was raised on his music!"
Undoubtedly, as with all jukebox musicals, the show will appeal massively to the artist in question's die-hard fan base, but the challenge remains to break out to a wider demographic to assure the Broadway production's longevity. How do you get bums in seats when those bums belong to people that have either never heard of Jimmy Buffett or never played any of his 27 studio albums?
"Well, that was the big focus of our team of writers and our director," admits Mr. Nolan. "We wanted to make sure we didn’t just create something that was scratching the anticipation of the parrothead 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."
"I have had many people come to the show and say that they didn’t really know his songs, but you don’t need to," adds Ms. Howard. "They’re just good songs in themselves and they serve the story well. The writers did a great job of taking these known songs and making a story out of them. You don’t need to know the music."
It remains to be seen whether Escape to Margaritaville can match the success of previous long-running jukebox musicals such as Mamma Mia! or We Will Rock You, which also wove together original stories with well-known greatest hits, but in the meantime, why not pop on a flowery, Hawaiian shirt and lei, get down to the Marquis Theatre, order yourself a cheeky margarita and find out for yourselves why Escape to Margaritaville is not just a musical, but a way of life?
Escape to Margaritaville Tickets are available now for performances through to November 18, 2018.
Check out all the production photos of the show as well as photos from last night's festivities!
(Production Photos by Matthew Murphy / Opening Night Photos by Tom Millward)