Let’s Play!

If you are like most Chicagoans, you’re probably gearing up for our blustery winter season. Not wanting to think about old man winter, you imagine taking a vacation from work to go somewhere far away from the cold weather and snow. You want a way to escape from your mundane daily task from that word called “work” to play where you can have a license to chill. Well, listen up: we have a vacation announcement for you.

“Escape to Margaritaville” will take you to paradise, and you will forget about embracing “The Chicago Hawk” for at least two hours. This summer tourist delight is a musical comedy based on the music of Jimmy Buffett, the man with the beach bum persona who preferred to wear Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops– which by the way was a significant contributor to his successful songwriting skills.

Fortunately for us who viewed the play at the Oriental Theatre, we were able to catch a heatwave in this cold city where we got a chance to party in the Caribbean and drink our troubles away at the run down but forever fun resort– you guessed it, Margaritaville.

It’s a place where Hawaiian shirts, sundresses, and flip-flops are the clothing of choice, and where drinks are flowing steadily and beach balls are tossed not only in the play but in the audience.  If you’re lucky, you might see a lei or two adorning the neck of Jimmy Buffett fans bringing back countless memories of some of his greatest songs that made him famous. Songs like “Why Don’t We Get Drunk,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Fins” playfully performed as tourist board the plane, which was ingeniously worked into an airline safety demo.

“Escape to Margaritaville” hits Chicago with perfect timing to get you out of the winter blues, especially since technically we are still in the fall season. Nonetheless, it comes with joyous tunes, a predictable plot, and music to get you ready to book a vacation to a Caribbean island.

If you are a “Parrot Head,” you probably know the word “WORK” is a dirty word, and if you continue to say it, your mouth just might get washed out with Tequilas. “WORK, WORK, WORK!”

This funny and heart-warming musical is a love story where two unlikely individuals fall in love set to a playlist of 27 of Jimmy Buffet’s songs. Tully (Paul Alexander Nolan) works as a part-time bartender, part-time singer, and full-time playboy who thinks he has his life all figured out until he meets Rachel, the beautiful career-minded tourist, who steals his heart and makes him question everything.

Tully has a nerdy friend called Brick (Eric Petersen), who never seems to get the girl and is always willing to help Tully whisk away his sex prize of the week before they get too needy and want more than an island love affair. However, Brick’s luck is about to change when he meets Tammy (Lisa Howard), an engaged friend of Rachel’s who’s about to marry a guy more interested in weight and sports.

Brick and Tammy’s blooming relationship with true love and acceptance almost stole the show and was a delight to see.

Both couples meet at a bar turned semi-hotel (since most tourists wind up crashing there anyway) that is managed by a delightful character named Marley (Rema Webb). Webb, a remarkable talent herself in the theater (The Color Purple, The Lion King, The Book of Mormons and Ragtime), is amusingly chased by an old pirate J.D. (Don Sparks) who seems to live at the bar.

Marley has hidden his plane, and J.D. swears that he has treasure buried on the island.  Rachael sees Tully and thinks he is cute but is very hesitant to engage with this so-called beach bum gigolo. She is fully committed to her goals of seeking to fund her venture capitalist business.

As Rachael fights off her feelings for Tully, Tammy, seeing too many drinks with sex names, is having problems staying away from Brick. She wants to break away from her jerk fiancé but Brick, being the total gentleman, helps her stay the course while ironically Rachel finds herself in bed with Tully.

When the island trip is over, Brick and Tammy leave as friends, but Tully has fallen for Rachael, but her mind is committed to her career.

One of the weird but cute moments was when Brick sees some zombies on his way up to the volcano path. Tully tells of an old legendary myth that the island volcano erupted and buried an insurance salesman, and Brick is now seeing them. Then the zombies following him during his trip towards the volcano and even dance.

The dancing reminded me too much of a copy of “Thriller;” and even though it doesn’t add much to the plot of the play, I still thought it was entertaining.

Love has a way of reconnecting and on this island the volcano brings Tully and Rachel together again. After everyone is forced to leave the island after the volcano eruption, Tully breaks into show business and becomes a star while Rachel’s dreams are slowly fading away.

The story ends like all love stories do. Tully and Rachel reunite and even Brick and Tammy come together.

Buffett’s fan base is enormous, so this play should do well wherever it travels, however, he may need to do a lot of guest appearances if it hits Broadway. This production from the book of Garcia and O’Malley, who have completed other great works, is a treat to see in the theater. We can only hope they venture into the world of theater again, and again, and again.

We wholeheartedly suggest seeing this off to Broadway production, as Jimmy Buffet says!

Escape to Margaritaville is a lighthearted musical full of fun in a bottle. It is a fun comedy about making choices, meeting new friends, kicking back, taking a break from it all, and getting into some light-hearted trouble– the type of trouble that stays at the resort.

The cast Includes:

Paul Alexander Nolan (Tully)

Alison Luff (Rachel)

Lisa Howard (Tammy)

Eric Petersen (Brick)

Rema Webb (Marley)

Don Sparks (J.D.)

Ensemble Members: Andre Ward, Matt Allen, Tessa Alves, Sara Adreas, Samantha Farrow, Steven Good, Angela Grovey, Albert Guerzon, Autumn Guzzardi, Keely Hutton, Mike Millan, Justin Mortelliti, Ryann Redmond, Julius Anthony Rubio, Ian Michael Stuart, Brett Thiele

“Escape to Margaritaville”  runs from November 9 – December 2, 2017 at Oriental Theatre.

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