In today’s Wall Street Journal drama column, I review Escape to Margaritaville. Here’s an excerpt.
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The jukebox musical, in which the back catalogue of a songwriter and/or pop star is repurposed as the score to a stage show, is one of Broadway’s staple items. Rarely are such shows any good, but some have been hits, and hope springs eternal in the cash-hungry hearts of theatrical producers and superannuated rockers. That’s why “Escape to Margaritaville,” whose score consists of 26 songs by Jimmy Buffett, has arrived on Broadway after preliminary runs in La Jolla, Chicago, Houston and New Orleans. Even though the 71-year-old Mr. Buffett is very old news—“Margaritaville,” his first and biggest hit single, was released four decades ago—a group of hard-nosed businessmen is betting that his amiable brand of what he calls “drunken Caribbean rock ’n’ roll” is still popular enough to rope in a slice of the tourists who couldn’t wangle tickets to “Hamilton.”
I wouldn’t care to bet against the folks who’ve sunk their own money into “Escape to Margaritaville.” On the other hand, I’m a critic, not a producer, and it’s my duty to report that they’re backing one of the most mediocre musicals ever to come to my attention….
“Escape to Margaritaville” is billed as being based on “the music and lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett,” which means in practice that it’s about a guitar-strumming beach bum (Paul Alexander Nolan) who makes his living rocking for the horny clientele of a crummy island hotel somewhere in the Caribbean. To this tattered paradise come two women, one of whom (Lisa Howard) is about to get married to a jerk (Ian Michael Stewart) who won’t tie the knot unless she loses weight. The other (Alison Luff), her best friend, is a priggish, workaholic environmental scientist who hopes to stop her buddy from spending her life with Mr. Wrong by encouraging her to have a fling with the dopey bartender of the Margaritaville Hotel (Eric Petersen)….
This brings us to Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley, who write fourth-rate sitcoms (this is their first musical) and whose idea of a joke is embodied in the following one-liner: “You spend a ton of therapists and yoga when the cheapest and most common cure for stress is always a zipper away.” If you think that’s funny, stop reading—I’ve got a show for you!…
Mr. Nolan and Ms. Luff are pretty and forgettable. Ms. Howard is something else again. A sexy plus-size charmer with a warm, ripe voice, she came to my attention in “It Shoulda Been You,” a wretched 2015 musical in which she played the good-egg sister who couldn’t get a boyfriend. If the allegedly woke progressives in the entertainment industry really meant what they said about fat shaming, they’d be casting her in starring parts. Since they don’t, she’s relegated to tedious second-banana parts like this one…
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Read the whole thing here.
The trailer for Escape to Margaritaville: