Directed by Tom Thayer

Review by Emily Berg

There seems to be a fairly substantial divide between Jimmy Buffet fans and, well, the rest of us. I have to admit I’ve never been much of a fan of island music in general. I suspect moving to Key West only made my aversion to steel drums stronger. So although I went to the Waterfront Playhouse with an open mind I was not prepared for how much I would enjoy Escape from Margaritaville.

This production is a super fun and enjoyable night of theater for all, no matter your familiarity with Buffett’s songs. 

The plot centers on the romance between Tully, a laid back resort musician and Rachel, a goal oriented type-a personality tourist on vacation from Cincinnati. The love story is told, in part, through classic Jimmy Buffet songs. For Parrot Heads that might be enough, but the wonderful charm of the show is that the characters are interesting, the writing is funny and the plot is strong. The songs aid an independently developed story so instead of being clunky and out of place they fit and become really fun little easter eggs within the dialog.

Perhaps most importantly the signing, dancing and acting by the cast is magnificent. The leads, Jordan Thomas Burnett (Tully) and Jillian Todd (Rachel) are fantastic. Some scenes moved quickly so I don’t think Todd always got the applause breaks she deserved, especially after some impressive high range songs. But I suppose with nearly two dozen numbers, all masterfully performed, things need to move along. 

The entire cast is wonderful. Tyler Gallaher is a stand out as the lovable Brick, a bartender who might have had a bad trip or two. In particular it’s worth looking forward to his tap-dance number with a group of zombies. Gallaher along with Allyson McCormick as Tammy play out their own love story with impeccable comic timing. 

The entire ensemble is great. As scenes unfold on center stage the ensemble continues the work in the background, their own stories quietly performed. By the time the show was over I felt invested in the whole little island family. This may be in part to the broken fourth wall. The audience is occasionally spoken to directly and often encouraged to sing along. During intermission the bar on stage turns functional, serving margaritas for a $5 suggested donation. All of this creates a very welcoming experience that translates to a connection with the characters.  

However, even if you can’t sing along, simply don’t want to, or can no longer drink tequila, you will have a good time at this musical. The enjoyment of the production is not dependent on one’s love of Jimmy Buffett’s music. Instead it’s just good theater enhanced by the communal feeling Buffett’s songs provide. 

Jimmy Buffet’s Escape from Margaritaville runs now through November 12 at the Waterfront Playhouse. Tickets are still available at waterfrontplayhouse.org.

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