Shelly Lynn Walsh as Tammy, Peter Michael Jordan as Brick, Chris Clark as Tully, Sarah Hinrichsen as Rachel in Jimmy Buffett's ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
As the temperature drops in North Carolina, most people dream of escaping to somewhere sunny and fun, a place much liked the famed “Margaritaville” of Jimmy Buffett’s hit song. And, for a short time, North Carolinians can do just that. They can set their minds to “island time” by heading to DPAC for Escape to Margaritaville, a cute, clever, and completely charming musical written by sitcom legends Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley and featuring music by none other than Jimmy Buffett himself.
The quirky musical bursts to life with a fun opening number featuring delightful choreography by Kelly Devine. It sets the silly and relaxed tone for the entire show and introduces viewers to leading man Tully, artfully portrayed by an oh-so-handsome Chris Clark.
Tully works at the Margaritaville hotel and is accompanied there by a succession of quickly introduced and thoroughly likeable side characters. There’s sassy, gossip-filled Marley (Rachel Lyn Fobbs), adorable wingman Brick (Peter Michael Jordan), and the hilarious, heavy-drinking island pilot, J.D. (Patrick Cogan).
Tully is quickly revealed to be somewhat of a lady’s man: sweet but elusive. However, he has yet to meet serious-minded Rachel (Sarah Hinrichsen), an anxious, hardworking Cincinnatian who’s about to embark on a trip to Margaritaville with her soon-to-be-married (to a big jerk) best pal, Tammy, endearingly portrayed by show-stealing Emily Qualmann.
While the story holds few surprises from there, what unfolds is a whole lot of fun. The script smartly sprinkles nods to Buffett’s songs and life throughout, and the choreography just gets better and better. Everyone is sure to love the fin-tastic moves found in “Fins.” And, speaking of puns, the script is peppered with them, especially when Brick and Tammy are around. Are they corny? Yes. Are they hilarious? Also yes.
Escape to Margaritaville is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t thoughtful. In fact, it works hard to send a message of empowerment and the importance of being true to one’s self. Rachel is allowed to be a strong female with goals and aspirations outside of just her love story, and Tammy’s arc focuses largely on body acceptance and self-love. Never preachy or pedantic and always enjoyable, this show is a breath of fresh air that pokes fun at itself without being too frothy.
And, while both leads are solid, with Hinrichsen displaying a particularly strong singing voice, the side characters are noticeably well-written and well-portrayed. Qualmann, in particular, is tons of fun to watch, and her chemistry with the uber-likeable Jordan is palpable.
Parrothead or not, viewers are sure to have a blast escaping to Margaritaville. Fast-paced and wonderfully pleasant, it’s a great way to spend a chilly November night!
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