It's often said there’s nothing new under the sun, and that is most certainly true of "Escape To Margaritaville," the musical built around the songbook of Jimmy Buffett. But while on the surface, it's a standard romantic comedy, that sun it's under is invitingly warm and bright.
Much like “Mamma Mia,” the show is cleverly built around more than two dozen songs. Set in a Caribbean island resort, it nicely captures Buffett's signature style - that laid back, tropical vibe that's won scores of devoted fans, known as Parrotheads. And they should be most pleased with this rendering, which exuberantly transports audiences on a satisfying high from start to finish.
The story, devised by Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley, breezes along with snappy humor and even manages to get a little deep, picking up on Buffett's more introspective lyrics.
The main character, Tully, modeled after Buffett in his early days, is a hunky singer in a run-down resort hotel naturally called Margaritaville, where life seems to be on perpetual vacation. But of course, Tully meets his match in the form of a beautiful and smart geologist named Rachel who's all work at first, and ends up getting a tutorial on the art of living for the moment, where it's 5:00 somewhere. There are the requisite sidekicks, a slacker bartender and Rachel's affable best friend, engaged to marry a jerk.
The cast is ideal. Lisa Howard and Eric Petersen, providing much of the comic relief, seem to be having a ball - lots of balls, quite literally in fact - and Alison Luff with Paul Alexander Nolan make for a dreamy pair, embodying the balmy potency of Buffett's celebrated tunes.
"Escape To Margaritaville" is as predictable as they come, but Christopher Ashley's lively staging makes it all go down quite smoothly. Much like the margaritas for sale in the theatre, it's equal parts sweet, tart and salty.