Saving Margaritaville

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WPCNR STAGE DOOR. Commentary on Broadway By John F. Bailey. April 3, 2018:

When I first heard about Escape to Margaritaville, the just-opened Jimmy Buffett musical at the Marquis Theatre in the Marriott Marquis Hotel, 46th Street, I told my theater companions, having just seen Carousel with them, I need to see Escape to Magaritaville.  I need some beach in my life. So they agreed.

My taste in Broadway was on trial!

I love all Mr. Buffett’s songs, Fins, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Come Monday, and of course the plaintive regret of Magaritaville.

But last week, eagerly looking forward to Saturday night’s performance I opened up the Times (New York, not London) and stumbled onto page 2, and was struck by an article by, a critic defending his apparently negative review of Escape to Magaritaville.

He panned it. The review was so scathing, that an undisclosed number of persons assailed the Times Arts Section with protests. (Editor’s Note: The “Times” never disclosed the number of critical letters they receive.)

The critic evoked memories both Canbyesque and Simonian even Kaelinian  evoking the  best Addison Dewitt (the critic) viciousness in the movie All About Eve.

Well I was totally mortified.

Here I had persuaded my friends to take in this show because I thought it would be entertaining, different and give us all the feel of the Caribbean in Times Square.

I was not expecting a socially significant musical, I was not expecting a “politically-correct-critic-approved” musical based on a critic’s smug standards.

I was looking for entertainment. Like rock and roll music, calypso songs, Little Richard, Fats Domino. I like those songs because the emotions  make me feel good.

Heaven knows there’s enough out there every day to make us feel bad.

I hate the way writers, directors producers get you going one way in a motion picture, or a musical and then pull a “gotcha” ending.  Like the guy and the girl look like they are going to get together, than they either break up, or one dies, and that is supposed to be mature, knowing real creativity, “rip your heart” out reality.

I don’t buy that.

I have my heart ripped out enough every day. And I take it.

I go to serious plays, and I go to musicals, on and off Broadway. I like plays that are serious and send a message. I’m not afraid of being disappointed.

But not every great show has to do that to be great entertainment.

Shows don’t  always have to condescend to the theater snobs of the world who hate silly shows that are commercial successes. I like chateau neuf du pap, but I also like beer and yellowbirds.

If musicals and entertainment have to have serious moral morbid denouements, we never would have had vaudeville, the Chaplin movies, standup comedy,  Never would have Casablanca,

Today the “theataaa” is replete with a mindset that “theataaa” should be serious only. What would Shakespeare think? Odds-bodkins!

Entertaining isn’t enough today the highfalutin  say.: Musicals should leave you with a message to be  worth the audience seeing, tell you what to think.

According to the reviewer in defense of his review of Escape to Magaritaville, he has to be a theater snob to save serious uplifting Broadway. How condescending of him.

I say, enough boring Broadway.

Enough message shows.

We get so many messages today.

I got a message from Escape to Margaritaville and so did anyone who was there that Saturday night:

I got uplifted plenty at Escape to Margaritaville!

Sometimes you just want to get drunk and view!

Laugh til you plotz,  and feel your heart fill your chest.

There’s nothing wrong with that–critics!

A musical should not be trashed if it sends everybody out into the night feeling great, exhilarated, shaking your head, laughing at the absurdity of what they just saw, discovering, savoring anew the feelings and fun of  Margaritaville, looking at total strangers and saying,

“How could the critic say what he did about this show? What was he looking at?”

That’s what they said to me. Think Hairspray. Think Book of Mormon. 

My friends genuinely liked it and we laughed our heads off and it kept you in suspense throughout.

Will Tully and Rachel get together finally or won’t they? Well, you won’t be disappointed! You will be smiling broadly as you walk out onto the great white way. You will be delighted.

I liked this show and I was not bored for one minute. No yawns in stretches of boring book. No lousy filler songs. There is no bad Jimmy Buffett song.

I loved the use of old-time set design. Moving trees. Sunsets. Bali Hi–Trader Vics palms.  An erupting volcano. I liked the sinuous languid choreography of Kelly Devine,  no tired boring Broadway kicking here. The switching of sets.


Scuba diving on stage; flying a plane from the middle of the Carribbean to Ohio on one tank of gas  to take one last chance at love; the magical feel drifting right out into every heart watching  the giddiness of first love, feeling it, the improbability and the best kind of romances:

You know what I mean, conch?

The it’ll never-work-but-I love-how-I’m-feeling-right-now-and-want-to-see-this woman-every-minute-giddy-high feeling that every member of the audience young and old just loves and never gets tired of feeling. In Margaritaville, you get three of these romances.

The modern dedicated woman  turning down the ne’er do-well, and the ne’er do well not giving up on her. It’s hope. It’s dreams. The stuff that life is made of. The realization that you can have a happily ever after. And you better go after it, otherwise you’ll never be happy ever after.

That’s what The Times review did not tell you.

This is a musical where you can understand the words of the song. You  sway to every Buffett hit.

This is a musical where the jokes are genuinely funny because they come from the crack sitcom creators, Greg Garcia, and Mike O’Malley, that lace the improbable three romances in Margaritaville with bust-out-laughing punchlines between songs.

The leads Paul Alexander Nolan as Tully, and the glamorous career girl, Alison Luff as Rachel sizzle with chemistry and Nolan  delivers just the right Buffetting of the Buffett favorites. The supporting actors are as likable and fun as the leads.

The audience roots for them all. The audience sings along. When the actors are happy, the audience is happy. When the actors are sad and apart the audience is rapt, worrying about how are they ever going to get together.

The audience really gets involved in the whole improbable emotional roller coaster of a show where it’s always 5’clock somewhere. This was an  across all ages of an audience, too.

It’s a 2-1/2 hour island vacation where the sun, the hits, the fun keeps on coming, mon,  in this energetic, explosive show and  you do not come back with a sunburn.

You’ll have some sand in your shoes and want the next flight out to this show.

Go on, lighten up, cruise into the lobby, fins to the left of you, fins to the right of you and you’re the only ones in town having a great time.

There’s laughter in the theater blender non-stop and soon it will render the sun, dreams, and love that helps you hang on.



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