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Moonlight’s “Escape to Margaritaville” a Fun Audience Participation Experience

By   /  June 11, 2024  /  No Comments

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TR Robertson – Even if you are not a Jimmy Buffet music fan, which is hard to imagine, you will definitely have a good time and find that you can’t help but join in occasionally with the songs from the jukebox musical, “Escape to Margaritaville”, now on stage at Moonlight Stage Productions in Vista. This musical, comprised almost entirely of Jimmy Buffet songs, is from a book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley and is making its first appearance back in San Diego County since it first appeared at the LaJolla Playhouse in May of 2017.

After premiering in San Diego, “Escape to Margaritaville” made stops in New Orleans, Houston and Chicago before opening on Broadway in March of 2018 at the Marriot Marquis Theatre. The jukebox musical would run until the end of July that year and then begin a National Tour in 2019, launching with a performance run in Providence, Rhode Island. The musical did suspend performances, as many others did, in 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but is now being performed at various times around the country.

Photos by Karli Cadel 

Those familiar with Jimmy Buffet’s songs will notice that lyrics for some of the songs are slightly altered to fit the story for the musical and several of Jimmy Buffet’s songs are combined together with only portions of the song sung for whatever the particular scene is depicting. One song in the musical that is not a Jimmy Buffet song is “Three Chords”, sung when Tully, the resident singer of the Margaritaville bar, is trying to teach vacationer Rachel how to play a guitar. Another noticeable difference in this performance is the expanded dance routines throughout the musical, more so than in the initial performances in 2017. All of this, along with the 25+ Jimmy Buffet songs, makes this a fun and very entertaining evening for those attending.

The twenty-four-member cast is obviously having a good time on stage. Numerous great voices keep the audience “moving and grooving” to the sounds of Jimmy Buffet’s “island escapism” tunes. This is especially shown with the wonderful performances by the two leads, Andrew Polec as Tully, the bar singer, and Ashely Moniz, as Rachel Williams, the Ohioan workaholic environmental scientist. Their voices stand out throughout the musical both on solos numbers, with other performers and with each other. The two other leads in the musical are Jazley Genovese as Tammy, the soon to be married but conflicted Ohioan, and Fisher Kaake as Brick, the bartender and Tully’s best friend. Both Tammy and Fisher have great voices and add humor to the musical as both have over the top issues they deal with. One especially funny scene involves Brick’s belief he can see the deceased insurance salespeople killed in a volcanic eruption, which features an energetic, unusual dance performance.

Additional performers that were audience favorites were David Kirk Grant as J.D. the one-eyed beach bum with tales to tell; Constance Jewell Lopez as Marley, the boisterous bar owner; and Ey Washington as Jamal, the bar’s bus boy and MC. The Ensemble and Swing members were outstanding performing a number of spirited dance routines, including an energetic tap dance routine that brought a rousing round of applause at the end.

The story line for the musical is simple. Numerous folks seeking love in their own way and along the journey learning to relax. Tully probably goes through the biggest change going from a bit of a womanizer, who feels “love is like the ocean; Ok on the surface but the deeper you go it gets darker and colder”; to someone who becomes “smitten by the love bug”. Brick and Tammy also have a funny relationship that comes to a smacking zenith with one punch, obnoxious fiancé Chadd the recipient, played by Colby Hamann, a blow that received applause from the audience. Even J.D. and Marley show age does not stop love.

Noelle Marion returns as the Director of “Escape to Margaritaville”, directing “Cinderella” in 2022. Her Creative Team includes Choreographer Jimmy Locust, Music Director/Conductor Tamara Paige, Lighting Designer Ryan march, Sound Designer Bryon Andersen, Video Designer Blake McCarty, Hair & Wig Designer Peter Herman, Costume Coordinator Raven Winter, Properties Coordinator Bonnie Durban, Stage Manager Stanley D. Cohen, Assistant State Manager Joseph Prete. The nine member “Escape to Margaritaville” Orchestra did a most commendable performance of playing the 25+ Jimmy Buffet and

This is a feel good, sit back and enjoy the music and relax to the “island vibe” musical. Nothing is taken too seriously and the characters you see on stage are fun people (except Chadd, but he’s not too bad). The musical is probably a PG-13 rated show, mainly for some language and one significant Jimmy Buffet song that got great audience participation. This was simply a fun evening at the Moonlight and well worth people seeing and filling the seats of the amphitheatre.

Next up for Moonlight Stage Productions is “School of Rock The Musical” beginning July 10th. “Escape to Margaritaville” will be on stage until June 22nd. Tickets are available at www.moonlightstage.com or call 760-724-2110.

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