What goes a long way in making it work is that the authors have managed to craft a plot that almost reasonably connects the pre-existing songs (there are new ones, too) into something resembling an integrated score. Buffett wrote a song about a volcano? Okay, make a character an environment scientist working with volcanic soil. A song about cheeseburgers? Okay, have a character struggling to stay on a diet. A song about being comforted by things like grapefruit and Juicy Fruit? Okay, that's the "Whistle a Happy Tune" moment. "Why Don't We Get Drunk (And Screw)"? There's the audience participation number! Wait, the main character needs a philosophy of life song. "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere"? Perfect!
ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE Broadway Reviews
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Review: Jimmy Buffett's 'Escape to Margaritaville' feels out place on Broadway — where sand and Parrotheads can be hard to find
It all felt indicative of the challenge this musical - which I first reviewed in Chicago and has been significantly improved since then - faces on Broadway. Unless you are three sheets to the wind, you cannot declare this "Mamma Mia"-style fusion of the Buffett oeuvre and a retro sitcom book by Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley to be a font of artistic innovation, or any innovation, really. It attempts no such thing.
The delightful, energetic frothy drink of a show that just opened at the Marquis Theatre is exactly what you'd expect given its inspiration - a predictable romantic comedy that celebrates the music written and/or performed by the renowned singer who's turned his laid-back island sound into a serious corporate empire.
Is it possible to make Jimmy Buffett music both sexy and funny in 2018? That's apparently the goal of Escape to Margaritaville, a new musical featuring his hits that opens on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre on Thursday night. Unless you've never been in a dive bar and Instagram accounts for the majority of your cultural exposure, you'll recognize early on the high degree to which Buffett's music and lyrics inform the plot, ultimately with humorous and uplifting - but not-so-groundbreaking - results.
That a fairly large percentage of the crowd at a recent Wednesday matinee enthusiastically shouted out those lyrics indicates that the show may find its audience, even if New York is probably not the epicenter. But even those unfamiliar with Buffett's songwriting oeuvre (I know, not a word usually associated with the composer of "Cheeseburger in Paradise") should find the proceedings relaxedly enjoyable. This jukebox musical is the theatrical equivalent of sipping on a frozen drink while lying on a beach chair in the blazing sun. It's not good for you, but it feels good.
What do you expect from a Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical? The alley outside the Marquis Theatre has been done up as an empty stretch of beach, and that pretty much sums up Escape to Margaritaville, which seems intended to be watched with your feet up and a melting frozen drink in your hand. Along with more than two dozen songs from Buffett's tropical-burnout catalog, the show offers steel drums, jean shorts, palm trees and dancers dressed as fluffy white clouds. It's often hokey and sometimes pokey. But I'll level with you: I had fun.
However well packaged, the show just isn't a good fit for New York, where it arrived by way of San Diego, New Orleans, and those tropical resort towns, Chicago and Houston. There's no telling where it will go from here; but under the direction of Christopher Ashley, who directed the original production at La Jolla, the production is ship-shape to travel to the north, west, and south of us - anywhere but here.
The story, concocted from clichés that were already droopy when they appeared in almost every other jukebox musical ever written, does not require you to put your thinking cap on. Mostly it asks that you notice the winking way it sets up situations that will later make Mr. Buffett's lyrics seem as if they were custom fitted to the yarn rather than the other way around.
Shoehorning songs into a plot "Mamma Mia!"-style doesn't exactly accentuate Buffett tunes that already tell tales of their own. And the weak and weird book by Greg Garcia ("Raising Hope") and Mike O'Malley ("Shameless") doesn't help matters.
Jimmy Buffett has written a musical for theatergoers who want to feel good about getting drunk and overeating. "Escape to Margaritaville" opened Thursday at Broadway's Marquis Theatre, and the Buffett songs and the original book by Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley offer a "Bachelor in Paradise" view of romance.
Yes, Jimmy Buffett, it's your own damn fault. Oh, I know, you had help in the commission of "Escape to Margaritaville," the lamely antiseptic musical that had its official Broadway opening Thursday night at the Marquis Theatre. But it's your songs that book writers Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley have spun into this insufferably dumb show, about a beach bum guitarist who falls for an environmental scientist while his bartender buddy suffers flashbacks filled with tap-dancing life insurance agents. (Yup, you read that right.)
Do you have to be a fan of Jimmy Buffett to love the jukebox musical Escape to Margaritaville? No, but it certainly helps. Make mine something lividly colored and very cold, please barman. And keep them coming. It may be the only way to get through this.
It's not that I hate fun. Fun is great! I love fun! Every now and again, I even love shiny, high-budget, well-constructed dumb fun based on a big-name brand. But Escape to Margaritaville is about as much fun as buying a dud hermit crab as a pet. It seems like it'll be exotic, or at least cute, but it's really kind of sad, and definitely a rip-off, and, at the end of the day, actually just an empty shell.
For the show's investors, it may not matter that Escape to Margaritaville isn't very good. It blends the greatest hits of Jimmy Buffett, a set of cheery cardboard characters, and a simple-if occasionally demented-plot into a concoction syrupy enough to taste sort of like a Broadway show. But like the worst versions of its namesake beverage, it's too watered-down to be much fun.
The jukebox musical, in which the back catalog of a songwriter and/or pop star is repurposed as the score to a stage show, is one of Broadway's staple items. Rarely are such shows any good, but some have been hits, and hope springs eternal in the cash-hungry hearts of theatrical producers and superannuated rockers. That's why "Escape to Margaritaville," whose score consists of 26 songs by Jimmy Buffet t, has arrived on Broadway after preliminary runs in La Jolla, Calif., and Chicago, Houston and New Orleans. Even though the 71-year-old Mr. Buffett is very old news-"Margaritaville," his first and biggest hit single, was released four decades ago-a group of hard-nosed businessmen is betting that his amiable brand of what he calls "drunken Caribbean rock 'n' roll" is still popular enough to rope in a slice of the tourists who couldn't wangle tickets to " Hamilton. "
The ability to consume alcohol during the show certainly helps to put one in a relaxed, less critical state of mind. But all things considered, you might be better off downing margaritas at a beach bar while listening to a Buffett album.
Escape to Margaritaville, the Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical, has fallen out of its hammock and on to Broadway. As charming and lazy as a beachside siesta, it sticks 27 Buffett hits into a paint-by-numbers plot, pulls a Hawaiian shirt and a grigri necklace over the top and calls it a day.
Directed by Christopher Ashley, hot off a Tony for "Come From Away," "Escape to Margaritaville" meanders along, pleasantly enough. Its appeal may last only as long as there are Parrotheads around to see it, but it helps that the show's so well cast and sung.