Review: JIMMY BUFFETT'S ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE Is Lighthearted Romance For Buffett Buffs at Toby's Dinner And Show

Visit Margaritaville in Columbia, Maryland through August 20, 2023

By: Jul. 05, 2023
Review: JIMMY BUFFETT'S ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE Is Lighthearted Romance For Buffett Buffs at Toby's Dinner And Show
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If you’ve wanted to wear flip-flops and a sundress or shorts and a Hawaiian shirt to a show but felt it was inappropriate, wait no longer. At Escape to Margaritaville at Toby’s in Columbia, it’s appropriate, and participatory. Some audience members even carry beach towels. 

Welcome to a warm tropical island. Also, welcome to winter in North America, with anchorpersons giving weather details in fun, location-appropriate accents. Separately, we meet some nice women in Cincinnati, Ohio who are about to travel, prior to one of them marrying a hockey fan of questionable merit. Writers Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley have paid close attention to the lyrics of Jimmy Buffett’s songs while writing the script of this 2017 jukebox musical, as many details of each song are set up in advance, to the amusement of the many Parrot-heads in attendance. I’m mostly lukewarm on jukebox musicals, but I appreciate this deep research in creating the show. 

That said, this is not a deep, meaningful script. The plot is just about exactly what you’d expect it to be, and works out precisely the way you think it will, without shocking surprises, aside from the appearance of inexplicable zombies. It’s a good time in a sun-kissed paradise, and relief that one doesn’t live in Cincinnati married to a hockey fan of questionable merit. Critics were underwhelmed by the musical’s 2018 Broadway debut, and advised audiences to manage their expectations. 

Director/Choreographer Mark Minnick gathers an extremely talented cast, including many regulars whom you’ve likely seen if you’ve been to Toby’s before. Four actors are making their Toby’s debut: two as leads and one in the crucial role of Swing. Swing is a performer who memorizes ALL the dialogue and blocking for half of the members of the Ensemble, in order to step in smoothly should someone be unavailable. The other half of the roles are memorized by another Swing of the other gender. So, shoutouts to newcomer Peyton Kern and familiar favorite Ariel Messeca. Whether or not they appear onstage, their work is vital to the production. 

Patrick Gover exerts his usual guitar-wielding charm as lead character Tully, an escapist entertainer working at an island resort. In her debut role at Toby’s, Kathleen West plays Tully’s love interest, eco-warrior Rachel. Rachel’s passion for her science research communicates through West’s physicality and dialogue, but it’s her devotion to best friend Tammy that is most authentic. Tammy, portrayed by Anna Phillips-Brown in her first role at Toby’s, is a young woman who seems to be ‘settling’ on a number of levels. Phillips-Brown brings dimensionality to this thinly sketched archetype, making Tammy relatable in a world of complicated relationships. The fourth corner of the romantic quartet, playing bartender Brick, is the perpetually likable Jordan B. Stocksdale, who has a deft touch with goofy characters. 

Supporting actors include Anwar Thomas as resort handyman Jamal, putting comedy in comic relief, Brandon Bedore owning it as Tammy’s irritating fiance Chadd, and Robert Biedermann turning his experienced hand to crazy codger JD. Asia-Lige` Arnold plays Marley, the Margaritaville Resort owner/manager, and is by turns dulcet sweet or Dijon sharp, and Ensemble member Joey Ellinghaus, whose physical antics and facial contortions are delightful in each sequence he inhabits, is extremely watchable even when he’s not doing anything. 

For Escape To Margaritaville, Director/Choreographer Mark Minnick diverges from his usual crisply choreographed ensemble numbers. Instead, he offers us intricate cast movement that is relaxed and casual, almost floppy at times, in keeping with a booze-soaked beach vacation vibe. The people I see are having a fantastic time in the tropics, though outside the theater, it’s still Howard County. 

Live musical backup provided by Conductor Ross Scott Rawlings and his Miniature Orchestra is spot-on. I’m particularly tickled by Kim Spath on guitar and Tony Neenan on trumpet.

The whole production is- including Janine Sunday’s fun costume design, lighting by David Hopkins, and even the buffet food- absolutely saturated with color. Calypso Carrots, huge medallions in a citrus glaze, are both gorgeous and yummy. Supporting the inebriated theme, there are several specialty show drinks, all sounding deliciously resort-ish, each available alcohol-free. I choose the frozen strawberry margarita, which is sharp and light with just a touch of sweetness.  

Despite my non-Parrothead feeling that the show may have too many numbers, each of them is performed with emotion and commitment, and signature Toby’s exuberance. In some cases, the audience is encouraged to join in the singing. In many cases, encouraged or not, the audience sings. Escape To Margaritaville is a jubilant salute to situational slacker-hood, and, considering the collective current stress, it’s as welcome as an island breeze, as unserious as sherbet punch, and as engaging as a beach read. It’ll sweep you away awhile and return you with a hankering for a little less bullshit, a little more Bacardi and a little more Buffett in your regular life. Sling on your favorite summer shirt, grab a hat, and have yourself a three hour change in latitude, with zero airport hassles. Coconut-scented sunscreen optional. 

Jimmy Buffett's Escape to Margaritaville plays through August 20, 2023, at Toby’s, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, Maryland. Use your GPS, or click here for directions.

Purchase tickets directly through Toby’s Box Office by calling 410-730-8311 Sunday and Monday, 10 AM- 8 PM;  Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM- 9 PM.

If you prefer purchasing online, Toby’s recommends ONLY Ticketmaster, and no third-party vendors. 

Next up is SISTER ACT, August 25 through November 5, 2023, followed by MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET November 10 through January 7, 2024.

Phone 1-800-888-TOBYS for information or contact Toby’s regarding accessibility, special occasion announcements, dietary accommodations and other questions.

Photo- Staff of Margaritaville, L to R: Patrick Gover as Tully, Anwar Thomas as Jamal, Asia-Lige` Arnold as Marley, Jordan B. Stocksdale as Brick, Robert Biedermann as JD. 

Photo Credit: Jeri Tidwell Photography

Final Factoid: Jimmy Buffett is co-founder of the non-profit Save The Manatees Club. Visit the site to learn or contribute.


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