By Sheri Berger
Escape to Margaritaville at The Lied Center is the next best thing if you can’t go to a tropical destination right now!
It’s time to set your mind on island time! Escape to Margaritaville is the celebration of decades of music written by Jimmy Buffet, native Alabamian, New Orleans troubadour, and now permanent resident of Key West, Florida. Parrotheads everywhere will want to experience this Touring Broadway musical and join with the crowd in singing along with their favorites – and the notorious ad-libbing which goes with it. As I found my seat, I looked around to groups of people who came together, excited to celebrate Jimmy’s music together.
Though the story and writing itself could use more depth, particularly with the character of Tully Mars, the actors and musicians in this production gave it their all, and did a fantastic job. They all showed they were what the industry calls the “Triple Threat” – they can sing, dance, and act. I particularly enjoyed that the show was inclusive in race, body type, and age. They had a great energy and synchronicity on stage.
Though the set itself was festive and straightforward, I also enjoyed the side sets, done by Scenic Designer Walt Spangler, such as how they staged the actors swimming in the ocean, being in bed together, riding on a plane and on a subway. They were also a great comic relief in the story.
The story is set at a hotel on a small island in the Caribbean, where waves of women arrive – and leave – for their relaxing vacation. Waiting for them at the hotel among the staff at the beachside bar, is Tully Mars (Chris Clark), a free beach gigolo, who likes to show random women a good time, and never remembers their names. The bartender, Brick (Peter Michael Jordan), is his best friend and is a good contrast to Tully, as he appears to be a bit more introverted, less confident with women, and amusingly neurotic.
Two women, Rachel (Sarah Hinrichsen) and Tammy (Emily Qualmann), take off for the island for Tammy’s bachelorette celebration. Her fiancé, Chadd (Devon Buchanan), is annoyingly consumed with watching sports with his friends. He insists that Tammy lose weight, even going so far as to call and have her wedding dress ordered a size smaller, forcing her to try to lose more weight before the wedding. Rachel, rightfully so, despises Chadd and worries her friend is not making the right choice to marry him.
Rachel is a scientist and it is her mission in life to prevent pollution and climate change, as well as find new methods for renewable energy. She awaits finding out if her application for grant money to fund her research of turning potatoes into conductors of energy is approved or not.
Brick and Tammy were welcome comic reliefs in the show, providing puns and plenty of neurotic humor. Brick, along with the Ensemble, showed off his tapdancing skills and Broadway dance aspirations. I particularly enjoyed how the writers incorporated the song Cheeseburgers in Paradise into the story as well, it was a fun and liberating scene.
As Rachel and Tully were the main love interests in the story, and Brick and Tammy provided humor and fun, a third couple JD (Patrick Cogan) and Marley (Rachel Lyn Fobbs) provided the story with sentiment and new starts later in life. We learn that JD had experienced his own trauma in the past, and had learned that the real treasure in life is never money, but memories of the good times and what is in your heart.
This musical was written by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley. The play was originally produced in La Jolla in 2017, then went on to New Orleans, Houston and Chicago before premiering on Broadway in February 2018. It ran on Broadway for 4 months before launching into a national tour in 2019. Please note that this performance does have some light adult themes.
This particular performance in Lincoln, Nebraska at the Lied Center is the first Touring Broadway musical in the state of Nebraska in 18 months. Though there is no socially distanced seating available at The Lied, which I was personally disappointed to find, the City of Lincoln does require wearing masks (properly) indoors, which most people seemed to abide by.
Overall, this play will give you pleasant flashbacks to your last tropical vacation, which is a much-needed escape especially during these times! So wear your Hawaiian shirt and garb and escape to the island while you can! There are only three more shows left: September 11, 12, 13, 2021!
Sheri Berger is a business minion, dog momma, arts groupie, and is the co-host with her husband, Chris Berger, of the Platte River Bard Podcast.
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