BWW Review: ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE at the National Theatre
"Fins up!" The National Tour of Jimmy Buffet's ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE docks at The National Theatre in Washington DC. If you're looking for a decently fun, nicely crafted, Buffet filled escape, paired with a mix of performances, then you've found the right show.
Escape to Margaritaville centers around an island "resort" with quite an appropriate name, that hosts tourists weekly. Tully, an island local, is a performer at the resort and his buddy Brick, is the bartender. When two ladies, Rachel a hardworking, concentrated scientist and Tammy her soon-to-be-married friend head to the island for a long-awaited getaway, the four meet and hit it off in unexpected ways. Many of Jimmy Buffet's hit songs are infused into the storyline including but not limited to Volcano, He Went to Paris, Son of a Sailor, Margaritaville, 5 o'Clock Somewhere, Fins, Cheeseburger in Paradise and many more! Rachel and Tully eventually hit it off, and as for Tammy and Brick, love is in the air, especially at here engagement dinner but not with her fiance. Escape to Margaritaville is under the direction of Amy Anders Corcoran, based on the Original Broadway Direction by Christopher Asley. The production is choreographed by Kelly Devine.
While the book of this show does not stun, it sure does know how to put a smile on your face. Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley allow us to "escape" in the jokes and light-hearted nature of this world and these characters. The music speaks for itself. Hearing Buffet's famous and lesser-known tunes all in one night, with an extraordinary live band and backed up by a nice-sounding cast of voices is quite exceptional.
While I really hoped and wished that the performances matched the scale of how fun this show actually is, I regret to write that they did not. Chris Clark plays a rather stagnant Tully alongside an equally stagnant Sarah Hinrichsen as Rachel. Shelly Lynn Walsh as Tammy and Peter Michael Jordan as Brick attempt to strike new life into this show but many scenes include all four leads and for that their challenge is just too out of reach. Rachel Lyn Fobbs plays a rather comical Marley that is good but nothing exceptional. The most interesting to watch in terms of the big seven in this show are Mattew James Sherrod as the resort "dishwasher" and server extraordinaire, Jamal. His entertaining version of "Volcano" coupled with his impressive voice and stage presence marks him as a standout. Another standout for me was Patrick Cogan as the comical yet endearing J.D. Always "searching for his lost shaker of salt" and offering up some of the best one-liners and advice. Both Patrick and his character of J.D. were major standouts that allowed me to become invested in something within this show.
It would be a travesty if I didn't mention the immense talent of the entire ensemble who plays tourists, resort hosts, airline crew, wedding guests, servers, and more throughout the show. Their performances were each individually impressive and sometimes I found myself watching the ensemble do their thing during scenes and numbers then I did watch the leads. Bravo to the ensemble for a remarkable job!
It would be another travesty if I didn't mention the incredible band. Under the helm of music director, Andrew David Sotomayor the entire band is exquisite. They bring the songs we all know and love to life and to another dimension. Their presence on the stage was a nice touch as well. Thank you to the band for adding some much-needed life into some moments in this show and overall for bringing the music of Buffet to life in this show.
Overall, though I was a bit disappointed with some of the performances in this production, I had a good time. How could you not enjoy Jimmy Buffet's music with masterful set design by Walter Spangler and expert lighting design by Howell Binkley. Paul Tazwell's costumes assist in transporting you straight to island life. Speaking of island life, it's quite fun when you're at "Escape to Margaritaville" again, with mixed performances, some outweigh others, but overall you're bound to smile and hum along with your favorite Buffet tunes.Escape to Margaritaville plays The National Theatre located at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC now through October 13. For tickets, click here or call the box office at (202) 628-6161