ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE
March 25, 2018
Hard to think of a better day to sit in the sunny rays of Margaritaville. NYC schools were closed and sidewalks walkable. Hearty folks huddled into the Marquis Theater and were greeted by thatch roofed island huts selling --what else-- margaritas.
Inside, the theme was continued with all the ushers wearing Hawaiian shirts while straw huts were suspended over the sides of the Marquis Theater stage.
A hard playing band led by Christopher Jahnke backed up the appealing leads. An eye-catching bar vocalist Tully (Paul Alexander Nolan) sings at the seedy, but neighborly hotel bar while his scruffy pal Brick (Eric Petersen) pours drinks. Both dropped out of the fast track onto the laissez-faire beach scene.
Tourists roll in and out like waves, nourishing the locals’ coffers, but never sticking. Then along come two young ladies, one is about to be married Tammy (Lisa Howard), the other; Rachel (Alison Luff) is excavating the volcanic soil for a regenerative power source. The ladies are determined to bask in a wee vacation before Tammy’s impending wedding and Rachel’s devotion to science.
Added to the mix is a hotel owner and island yenta Marley (Rema Webb) and the gnarly Jamal who sports a black eye-patch. Naturally, holiday romance sneaks in, but then, so does a landslide of other events.
There’s a volcanic eruption, the hunt for buried treasure, and an existential search to “know thyself.” In a simplistic way, the play revolves around the characters’ fear of love and trust in oneself.
The boisterously delightful Lisa tries to control her appetite for the sake of her fiancé and finds, through Eric’s wholehearted acceptance, comes to terms with her desires. Career minded Alison finally drops her emotional blockades when the utterly charming and genuine Paul makes a full-throated appeal for her love. But none of this happens right away. It actually takes years for all the strings to re-attach.
Scenic design by Walt Spangler is reminiscent of a high school play, both colorful and tackily whimsical. Veteran lighting designer Howell Binkley switches between scenes drenched in the bright light of a Key West day to a darker, thin colors of mainland suburbia.
Breezily directed by Christopher Ashley, the choreography by Kelly Devine perked up the corps and underscored the musical dynamics. A combination of rock steps, Latin social Dances and some plain ole’ sashaying round and round adds a giddy sense of forward motion.
Yes, by the end, all comes together in this simple story, but between the stress-free, singable tunes, the two and a half hours breeze along.
The light-hearted book is by Greg Barcia and Mike O’Malley with music and lyrics by the ineffable Jimmy Buffett. Now for those who know the Buffett soundtrack, this is a production that’s just asking for sing-along. In fact, my neighbor did that until I suggested she quiet down to which she responded, “No--you’re suppose to sing along at Buffet shows.” What to do?
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis