Boats, Beaches, Bars and Ballads – a review of “Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville”

By Michael Buzzelli

Dig your Hawaiian shirt out of mothballs and get on Island Time. We are flying off to “Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville,” a jukebox musical set to the tropical rock tunes of the late King of the Parrotheads, Jimmy Buffet.

Tully Mars (Gavin Calgaro), a stand-in for the infamous Gulf and Western crooner,  lives on an unnamed island and likes playing the field (or, in this case, the beach) wooing tourists one vacation at a time.  His best buddy, Brick (Andy Coleman), a bartender in the Margaritaville Hotel and Bar where Tully sings, makes sure the girls don’t miss their plane back to the U.S. by shouting about the shuttle to the airport on cue when anyone says, “Let’s keep in touch.”  After each dalliance, Tully pops them on said shuttle and sends them back home, because he’s got a “License to Chill.”

Meanwhile, in the cold winter climes of Ohio, maid of honor and environmental scientist, Rachel (Tiffany Meyers), is picking up bride-to-be Tammy (Katy Chmura) and whisking her off on a bachelorette vacation and getting her away from her fiancé (Eric Molina), the annoying man-child Chadd (yes, with two D’s).  Chadd has Tammy on a strict diet of carrot juice and sunflower seeds, in hopes that she will slim down into her bridal gown.

Once the girls get to the island, Rachel and Tammy meet Tully, Brick, Marley (Cecelia Staggers),the bar owner, J.D. (Andy Cornelius), the beach bum, Jamal (Harry Hawkins), the bar back, and a cast of tourists and regulars. The regulars consist of a a large ensemble of actors, and there are a bunch of fresh faces in the group.

Rachel wants to collect soil samples at the mouth of the volcano, but Tammy wants to party the day away, because, after all, it’s five o’clock somewhere. The boys take them up the slope of the volcano and romance ensues.

The writers Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley conveniently wrap the plot around the myriad Buffett songs, including songs about alcohol, cheeseburgers and – just for funsies – an active volcano.  They try a little too hard to wedge every single Buffet song into the show and it’s a bit overstuffed. The show is a little long for a musical comedy, but it is laugh out loud funny.

While downing shots, the cast sings, “Its Five O’ Clock Somewhere” in “Jimmy Buffet’s Escape to Margaritaville.” Photo Credit: Hawk Photography and Multimedia LLC

Calgaro is an affable Tully and a likable leading man. He has a terrific voice.

Coleman gets some of the best lines and delivers them flawlessly. His comedic timing is pure perfection here. He even gets the best slapstick and visual humor (I dare you not to laugh when he reveals his tattoo).

Chmura gets some great moments. Her comic timing rivals Coleman’s. The two of them have a sweet chemistry that brings their character’s romance to life.

Cornelius gets an iconic moment singing a ‘sort of’ love song. Though the song is more about love-making  than love. It stands out and up (that’s a Viagra pun).

Jamal (Harry Hawkins) offers his leg in lieu of his hand to those customers seeking a masseuse. Photo Credit: Hawk Photography and Multimedia LLC

In a sequence near the end, you will want to get up from the audience and punch Chadd in the face.  Molina is delightfully cruel in the most nonchalant way.

“Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville” is expertly directed by Patrick Cannon. There are a lot of newbies in the cast, and Cannon does a great job giving each of them a moment in the sun.

The band, mostly hidden in a cabana and porch swing, are terrific.  Ben Brosche leads Chad Dougherty, Kamran Mian,  Alex Kendrick-Kupiec and Aldo Dilani. They effortlessly capture the island sound that made Jimmy Buffett famous.

Grab a wedge of lime,  and pack an extra a shaker of salt. The show doesn’t always make sense (a tiny one-jet engine flies nonstop from the tropics to Ohio, and the heroes mysteriously know where to find their love interests), but the songs and snappy patter are enough to keep you humming and laughing. You will want to book your own Escape to Margaritaville.

It is going to be a hard ticket to get. The first five performances are sold out! But if you’re as persistent as Rachel with a soil sample, you should have no trouble.

-MB

“Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville” runs from June 6 to June 23 at t Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South, Canonsburg, PA 15317 For more information, click here.

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