Review: Find Yourself on 'Island Time' with ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE at Eight O'Clock Theatre

Earn your license to chill through March 10, 2024.

By: Mar. 03, 2024
Review: Find Yourself on 'Island Time' with ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE at Eight O'Clock Theatre
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“So clear your mind. You know what I do when I get stressed? Breathe in, breathe out, move on.” -Tully

“Some people claim, that there’s a woman to blame...but I know, it’s my own damn fault...”

“It takes no more time to see the good side of life than it takes to see the bad...” Jimmy Buffett

Escape to Margaritaville, is a 2017 Jukebox Musical written by Greg Garcia, and Mike O’Malley, and based on songs by Jimmy Buffett.

Its central storyline revolves around a part-time bartender/musician and his misadventures that occur while falling in love with a career-driven tourist.

Inter-weaving songs originally written and performed by Jimmy Buffett, and featuring one original song specifically written for the musical, “Three Chords.”

This free-spirited Jukebox Musical features 21 of Jimmy Buffett’s most popular songs and two medleys of hits, all performed over two hours.

Escape... premiered in February of 2018 at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre, after having enjoyed an extended run at the La Jolla Playhouse, and in Chicago. It later closed in July of that same year. During its Broadway run, it played 29 total previews, and 124 regular performances, and throughout its run garnered mixed reviews from critics, some positive, but mostly negative. A National Tour would launch in September of 2019 in Providence, Rhode Island. The tour, however, was suspended due to the onslaught of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and would later resume performances in September of 2021, with most of the original touring cast returning.

Receiving mostly negative reviews from The New York Times, and The Washington Post, it also went on to receive positive accolades from Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter.

This is what brings me to the production at hand.

For anyone who is, or has identified with “Parrot-heads,” then this musical is for you. If you find yourself stressed from the day-to-day, and needing a get-away without the ability to do so, then this show is for you. If you want to settle into a little familiar, and hear songs we all know and love, then once again this show is for you.

However, if you are looking for something life-affirming, opinion-changing, and an overall teachable moment, then this is not the show for you.

This idea of “island-time” is a gentle break from reality, the ability to sit back, relax, and let the good times roll. After all its five-o-clock somewhere.

I will say though, that under all the fluffy-moments, and jokes that are so over the top it’s almost cringy at times, Escape to Margaritaville, highlights these ideals of individuality, and love in its greatest, truest form. That even in the lowest parts of your life, you’ll find just what you’re looking for, if you just breathe in, and take a look around.

The script itself is not the best, and the story weaves moments of tension, and light- hearted fair about as well, as a movie featured on Lifetime or Hallmark Channel. Insert some well-known Jimmy Buffett songs, and you have a fun-filled night with your closest friends.  A couple of Margaritas, and some steel drums to soothe the soul. 

That being said, the company of Eight O’Clock Theatre’s production gives it their all, and allows the audience the chance to be swept away in their plight.

As Tully Mars, Steven Fox has the “Island” aesthetic down pat. With a guitar slung around his shoulders, and his surfer-style haircut, there is no escaping the feeling of the island when he is at the helm. Channeling his inner Matthew McConaughey, his delivery is spot on. His vocals are strong at times, and his guitar skills are pulled off with expert skill. You forgive some of the clunkiness at times, because his character is a struggling musician. His connection with Rachel is undeniable chemistry.

As Marley, Syeeta Robinson-DeBerg makes a stellar debut. Her comedic-timing and delivery is spot on with the most seasoned of performers. She is island true and true from the moment she first enters the story.

Rick Nymeyer does a fine job as J.D. the Island local. You get the sense that he is as island as they come, and he’s not afraid to go for it in all his delivery. His moments with Marley are comedic gold. J.D. is the one guy at the bar we all know and love, no matter how many times you’ve heard the same old story.

Hallie Delhagen is wonderful as Jamal. Her comedic timing shows through from the very start. She’s a great addition to the company.

Kayley Jewel stuns as Rachel, the Career-Obsessed tourist and Tully’s love interest. Her vocals are top-notch here, and her connection with Tully will make your heart swell. When she finally gives into her feelings for Tully, the dynamic of her character changes, and its a wonderful plight to be able to witness, and Kayley does a wonderful job keeping us in tow.

Emma Fortunate is exceptional as Tammy. Channeling her inner Melissa McCarthy she will have you in stitches throughout the show. Her comedic-timing is so crafted and meticulous delivered, and her moments with Brick are worth the price of admission. There is a great empowering moment for her character late in the show that caused the audience to cheer.

Ashton Cote as Chadd is the perfect dumb jock. He’s the perfect narcissistic pain in the ass who has what’s coming for him. Ashton does a great job playing multiple roles in the show, and his ability to bounce between parts shows off his exceptional skill. Somehow his delivery as Chadd is other-worldly in moments, and you get the sense there is more bubbling under the surface, his character is very layered, and nuanced throughout. He’s the guy you love to hate.

Rounding out the company is our Islanders, Aidan Anderson, Paige Crockett, Jay Heatherly, Arbie Ignacio, Emma Kulby, Emily Molinaro, Rico Navedo, Emily Sklaver, and Michelle Stratton.  Our Parrot heads, Rose Gillespie, Gloria Moranski, and David O’Brien add an additional layer to the overall world of the show. The Islanders pull off a- lot of costume changes, scene changes, and several moments of choreography. You almost have to keep your head on a swivel to catch it all. Its a wonderful sight to see full execution of the company throughout, and they all come together to successfully tell the story.

In such an Ensemble piece as this, it is often hard to pin-point the best in show. However, not every ensemble piece has the  pleasure of working along side Matthew Morris. From exceptional vocal ability, to masterful guitar playing, to even a “Big Tap” number, is there anything he can’t do? On top of it all his comedic timing is so meticulously calculated down to the final moment, that its as if he could have his own stand up. Perfectly crafted, and fine-tuned to the smallest of details, making this a truly show-stopping performance.

Director/Choreographer Domenic Bisesti gets the most out of his company, and they strive to leave it all on the stage every night, and do so with gusto. As I previously stated the script itself isn’t all that memorable, so you have to find the right Director to work magic into a less-than magical script. Domenic’s fine eye for detail shines through in every moment. With the helping hand of Troy Reamsnyder as Assistant Director,  Escape to Margaritaville is a rollicking good time.

Set Design by Tom Hansen brings the world of the islands into our worldview, and its a magical feat to uphold. Costumes by Debbi Lastinger allow the characters to find their own unique personalities within the lives of these characters. Brad Fetter’s Lighting Design, blends well into the world of the show and helps to highlight Tom Hansen’s Scenic work. The Orchestra/Live Band led by David Estevez brings the right kind of “island vibe,” without over-powering the singers.

Is this the most perfect of musicals...far from it. There were moments where characters were in the dark, whether intentional or not, it was slightly confusing. The Choreography works at times, and at other times feels like it’s out of place and just all over the map. The Company has a great time with each musical number and gives it their all. All of these minor issues can be seemingly overlooked by the lifestyle that comes with Jimmy Buffett’s music and the way “Island-Life,” can be interpreted. So you forgive the messiness, the not-so-magical script, and the over-the-top jokes, for an evening of escape and relaxation, that only the islands can provide.

Hats off to the fine folks at Eight O’Clock Theatre, who always find a way to push the envelope, and secure their spot as one of the top Community Theatre Companies in the area. With Escape to Margaritaville, they have created a truly immersive experience for all. From pre-show steel drummers, to a live in house Tiki Bar complete with Margaritas. You get a feeling you’ve stepped into an island oasis. If you wish to partake in the Margaritas I would arrive early, and might I suggest buying two before the show begins, in an almost completely sold-out crowd they ran out of Margaritas before the show began.

Escape to Margaritaville proves true to its namesake. It’s an escape I am sure glad we had a chance to experience, if even for a brief while. Tickets can be purchased by clicking the button below. Don’t delay for this License to Chill is only in effect until March 10, 2024.

“La ora te natura, E mea arofa teie ao nei, la ora te natura, E mea arofa teie ao nei...”

“I seen enough to feel the world spin,

Mixing different oceans meetin’ cousins

Listen to the drummers and the night sounds,

Listen to the singers make the world go round...”

PHOTO CREDIT: CHAZ D PHOTOGRAPHY




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