‘Escape to Margaritaville’ Broadway Review: Jimmy Buffett Kicks Back a Few Too Many

A new musical takes its cue from Buffett’s odes to gluttony “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Why Don’t We Get Drunk (and Screw)?”

escape to margaritaville
Photo: Matthew Murphy

Jimmy Buffett has written a musical for theatergoers who want to feel good about getting drunk and overeating. “Escape to Margaritaville” opened Thursday at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre, and the Buffett songs and the original book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley offer a “Bachelor in Paradise” view of romance.

Like the contestants on the popular ABC reality series, most of the characters in “Margaritaville” are not yet old enough to have felt the dire effects of their alcoholism, although one of them, a boozy 76-year-old pilot (Don Sparks), has lost much of his memory. The others are employees or guests at a third-rate island resort where singing Buffett drinking songs and getting inebriated makes them forget they don’t have enough money to book a week at Sandals or Club Med.

Tammy (Lisa Howard) and Rachel (Alison Luff) escape wintry Ohio to get hammered in the Caribbean and fall in love, respectively, with the resort’s bartender, Brick (Eric Petersen), and its resident singer-songwriter, Tully (Peter Alexander Nolan).

These two love affairs are notable for two very different reasons. Never having heard of the #MeToo movement, Tammy thinks it’s great to physically assault her old boyfriend (Ian Michael Stuart) when he asks her to stop porking out on cheeseburgers. And never having watched an episode of “The Bachelorette,” Tully doesn’t know that smart professional girls like Rachel never end up with the bartender, the trainer or the struggling singer-songwriter.

It’s here that Garcia and O’Malley achieve true Broadway history by having Tully go from a beach bum to a Grammy-winning artist in 10 minutes of stage time. In the end, Rachel retains her self-respect by ending up with an instant multi-millionaire.

With “Come from Away” as their last Broadway credit, director Christopher Ashley and choreographer Kelly Devine bring that same peppy bounce to a musical about alcoholism that they brought to a musical about 9/11.