5 Reasons Not to Escape From Margaritaville
By: Iris Wiener
Yes, it was completely shut out of the Tony Awards race, and yes, critics have not been incredibly kind to the Jimmy Buffett extravaganza, and it is with good reason. Due in large part to a highly problematic, lazy book from television vets Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley, Escape to Margaritaville is a scatterbrained, hallucinatory hodgepodge of nonsensical mayhem. However, its few redeeming qualities are like diamonds in the ruff, thus deserving recognition. Here, we celebrate these gems:
- Lisa Howard as Tammy. As versatile and talented as she is beautiful, Howard’s depiction of Tammy’s slow build to self-acceptance and understanding is sweet and unwavering. Whether she is flying through the air in “Cheeseburger in Paradise” or imagining that it is “Five O’Clock Somewhere,” Howard’s stage presence is refreshing and vibrant.
- Slow burns and big reveals. Punch lines may take up to an hour before making their marks, but they’re well-worth the wait. Seemingly irrelevant plot points are genuine fun when they finally jive with the rest of the story. Wondering why J.D. (Don Sparks) is constantly looking for his lost salt shaker? Only true “Margaritaville” fans may have a notion as to why.
- A tropical retreat in Midtown. Audiences can’t help but enjoy the beach balls, Adirondack chairs, paper umbrellas and overpriced margaritas welcoming them to the transformed Marquis Theatre. Not to mention, guests attend in appropriate attire; just try not to count the Hawaiian shirts dotting the large space. A veritable treasure in our beloved lipstick jungle, the venue is a relaxing “escape” from the norm.
- Cultish kitsch. Dancing clouds? Befuddling musical numbers based around dead hallucinated accountants? A tap number led by the talented Eric Peterson…in which he doesn’t actually tap? Snorkeling in mid-air? It’s all weird and remarkably groan-worthy, but these are many of the aspects that make Margaritaville so much fun to hate.
- Groans, puns and cheese. Margaritaville has them all, pre-packaged and ready to serve. In fact, jokes about puns abound. For the dad or grandpa with bad one-liners always at the ready, the show is a dream. (“I bought shoes from a drug dealer once. I don’t know what he laced them with, but I was tripping all day!) Though it is not a piece for the most cultured of theatre fans (eyes will get exercise with a whole lot of rolling), it goes down smoothly if people go in expecting shlock over substance. Be in on the jokes that will surely be made at Margaritaville’s expense at the Tony Awards by experiencing it yourself before a closing date is set. (With a lack of nominations, this will surely be sooner rather than later.)
Photography: Matthew Murphy