Jimmy Buffett's Broadway-Bound Musical 'Escape To Margaritaville' Launches In San Diego
A tropical paradise is sweeping over the La Jolla Playhouse with the premiere of "Escape To Margaritaville," a Broadway-bound musical dedicated to the beloved songs of Jimmy Buffett.
The legendary singer-songwriter was in San Diego this week to promote the show.
“First of all the show is funny and it’s a great story that weaves through these songs that were never intended in my mind to be together,” said Buffett, who has worked on the musical for four years. “There are the party songs, and there are the songs that, probably my more favorite songs are things that are about more serious topics that people have to go through in life.”
The storyline of love, friendship and a yearning for purpose features a laid-back bartender and singer named "Tully," and an environmental scientist named "Rachel," who is in a race to save the world.
Buffett is not in the show, but much of it is a reflection of his life. Sitting in the audience brought him “waves of emotions,” said Buffett, 70, who has recorded more than 30 albums and continues to bring concert tours around the world.
“There’s a lot of it that I made up, and a lot of it that I lived,” Buffett said. "So that emotion comes running through there — the events that led to certain lyrics that were written about real people."
Songs like "Margaritaville," the musical headliner he wrote 40 years ago, have shaped his career and won over millions of his fans — many of them baby boomers, better known as Parrotheads.
“If you’re honest with yourself, you have to recognize that fun is even more important now than it was when it wasn’t such a crazy world out there,” Buffett said. “And as the world gets more frightening and more serious these days I think it’s much more — people used to just want to go. I think they have to go now.”
It was theater that inspired his lifelong music career starting when he was a child. Launching a musical will bring his career full circle, he said.
“That was probably the last thing I wanted to do was try to get a show to Broadway and that’s going to happen,” he said. “My sights have been on Broadway since my mother took me to musicals as a kid. I just loved them as an audience.”
Broadway Alumni Paul Nolan and Alison Luff play the leads of the show. They said it is a pleasure belting out Buffett’s most beloved tunes.
“It’s fun to be part of a comedy and it’s fun to be part of a romantic comedy,” said Luff, who hopes the audience will walk away with one important message. “It’s about opening up, getting your head out of your phone, looking at the people around you, and not taking everything so seriously because we need a little bit of light and love in the world."
Writers Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley worked with Buffett on the colorful and adventurous storyline.
“We listened to the songs — the ones we knew we wanted to put in, the ones we knew we had to put in and people would be rioting if they weren’t in there — and we created characters based on the songs," Garcia said.
"I think that what these songs have allowed us to create in this story is something that is universally relatable: Are you with people you love? Can you find love? When you make mistakes can you still find somebody in the middle of your life to share your life with?” O'Malley added.
"Escape To Margaritaville" will be the 29th show the La Jolla Playhouse has ushered to Broadway. Artistic Director Christopher Ashley has been a big part of that. He said working with Buffett has been a joy.
“He’s easygoing and playful and smart and adventurous and usually barefoot,” Ashley chuckled.
One thing that makes this show unique, Ashley said, is the high-energy audience made up of hardcore Buffet fans, as well as those who have never heard his music.
“There’s the Parrotheads that know every song, know bits of choreography from the concerts,” Ashley said. "There’s a community that happens in the audience.”
It is an audience Jimmy Buffett said he is grateful to have in San Diego.
"I’ve always loved this part of the country and worked here," Buffett said. "We have a very loyal audience in San Diego and North County, so what better place to do it.”
And what's next for Buffett?
“This is ground-zero for the next year ‘cause there was so much time put into this," he said. "I think we have a good shot at this hanging around for a while and it will be fun to do it for a while."
Following the La Jolla Playhouse run, "Escape to Margaritaville" will play New Orleans’ Saenger Theatre, Houston’s Hobby Center, and make a stop at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre in November 2017 before sailing into Broadway in the spring of 2018.
'Escape To Margaritaville'
La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Theatre
2910 La Jolla Village Drive
Tickets start at $85
Tuesdays-Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays-Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Call: (858) 550-1010