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Review: ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE at Starlight Theatre

A "deep dive" into the world of Jimmy Buffett

Review: ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE at Starlight Theatre
Company of the National Tour,
Photo by Matthew Murphy

The final, outdoor, Broadway style show for the 2021 season at Starlight Theatre is Jimmy Buffet's 2018 juke box musical "Escape to Margaritaville." If you are a certified Jimmy Buffet fan, otherwise known as a Parrott-head, then this fun evening is absolutely for you. The songs are light, familiar, well performed and well danced, with a minimal, but adequate number of set pieces. The plot is likewise light, kind of like grilling waist-deep on a sand bar right off the shore.

"Escape to Margaritaville" is aptly named. It is musical theater escapism and there is nothing wrong with that. It is designed to be nothing more or less than light entertainment. I was reminded of cotton candy at the county fair. You can't justify eating the spun sugar, but you do it and never regret it later.

Review: ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE at Starlight Theatre
Sarah Hinrichsen as Rachel and Chris Clark as Tully
Photo by Matthew Murphy

The story is simple. A very good, but non-competitive bar singer (Tully Mars played by Chris Clark) and his bartender buddy (Brick played by Peter Michael Jordan) have settled onto a volcanic resort island in the Caribbean. They enjoy the island lifestyle and the single women who visit generally for a week at a time. The island's loveable, but dissipated drunk (JD played by Patrick Cogan) is looked after quietly by the owner of the island's rundown hotel (Marley played by Rachel Lyn Forbes). You don't think the bald, goateed, flip-flopped, floppy hatted JD might be a stand in for Jimmy Buffet himself do you?

An uptight, very cute, but very serious young lady named Rachel (Sarah Hinrichsen) and her about to be married to a jerk, best friend Tammy (Emily Qualmann) appear on the island for a week's working vacation. Rachel, it seems, is a climate scientist here to sample the volcanic soil in addition to having a bachelorette week with her buddy.

Predictably, they hook up with Tully and Brick. Tammy attempts to be true to her jerk of a boyfriend. Rachel tries to stand clear of the handsome, lothario with a guitar, in an ugly, floral pattern shirt. Again, predictably, they all fall for each other when unexpectedly the island's volcano erupts and they must evacuate the island. Think St. Vincent in the Grenadines.

Rachel and Tully are separated. Tully and Brick must search for JD. He is off recovering his "buried treasure box." They find him just in time, but the escape boat has left and the castaways are left to escape in JD's impounded sea plane. Tully confesses that he has fallen for Rachel and JD encourages him to confront her and proclaim his love.

Review: ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE at Starlight Theatre
Rachel Lyn Fobbs as Marley and Patrick Cogan as J.D.
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Tammy realizes it is time to dump the jerk for Brick just in time, but Rachel continues to be driven to save the world and turns Tully down while encouraging him to find a goal. He does. He becomes a rock star. Three years pass. Mysteriously, as Tully's fortune grows parallel to Rachel's environmental funding they reunite and marry on the island at Margaritaville where this all began.

This is the very first national tour of "Escape to Margaritaville." The original ran for 124 performances at the Marquis Theater in New York. If you love Jimmy Buffett, "Margaritaville," "Cheeseburger In Paradise," "It's Five O' clock Somewhere," and others, "Escape to Margaritaville," is a very fun way to spend an evening with a gaggle of other folks dressed in shorts and ugly island shirts. Many have Margaritas in plastic cups in one hand and a shaker of salt in the other. At least one was wearing an actual Parrott-head.

I really enjoyed "Escape to Margaritaville." They say that "Oklahoma" was a revolution in musical theater. I kind of suspect that "Escape to Margaritaville" represents what musicals were like prior to "Oklahoma." An example might be Cole Porter's "Anything Goes."

Review: ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE at Starlight Theatre
Company of the National Tour,
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Too bad that this week's weather forecast reminds one of the lines in the title lyric from "Oklahoma" that says: "the wind comes right behind the rain." We don't have any rain predicted, but we do have wind whipping in the 50s and 60s. Wear warmed clothing underneath your ugly shirts. Drinks with burning alcohol are recommended.

The performances are all very good. I suspect Chris Clark and Sarah Hinrichsen may have a future in Musical Theater. The dancers and supporting players are uniformly excellent and uniformly younger except for JD. This is a non-equity production offered by Troika Entertainment. It is one of their better offerings. One reviewer commented that this show is like lying on the beach with a drink in your hand. You know it isn't good for you, but you don't care. I loved it.

"Escape to Margaritaville" continues at Starlight through Sunday September 26. Tickets are available at the Starlight website or by telephone at 816-363-7827.

From This Author - Alan Portner

Al Portner is regional editor for Broadway World – Kansas City.  He is a retired career journalist and media executive who has written for publication over more than 40 years. Portner ha... (read more about this author)

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