‘Escape to Margaritaville’ embraces Parrotheads and revelry

Alison Luff as “Rachel” and Paul Alexander Nolan as “Tully” in La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere musical “Escape to Margaritaville”, running through July 9 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre. Matthew Murphy photos

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Special to the Village News

“Escape to Margaritaville” is this year’s must-see musical. It is fresh. It is happy and focuses “on the party”!

Artistic director Christopher Ashely once again embraces the youthful spirit of the La Jolla Playhouse by introducing another important work to the national scene. Like many of the shows launched before, “Escape to Margaritaville” will no doubt end up on Broadway.

Naturally, the music is the key. With score credits going to Christopher Jahnke, (the musical supervisor), it is LJP’s orchestra leader Michael Utley who gives the show life.

Celebrated choreographer Kelly Devine creates an exuberant dance party around the spectacular scenic designs of Walt Spangler, which are enhanced by Tony Award winning lighting designer Howell Binkley.

On stage at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, “Escape to Margaritaville” is set on an unnamed Caribbean island surrounded by sandy beaches and mind-blowing sunsets. All the while, Jimmy Buffet’s music breathes, pulses and soothes.

This world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse features many of Buffet’s hits interspersed with lots of new songs. The original book was written by Greg Garcia (“Yes, Dear” and “My Name is Earl” co- creator) and Mike O’Malley (actor, “Yes, Dear”) around Buffet’s music and lyrics.

Flawed, unapologetic, and charismatic Tully (Paul Nolan) represents everything sexy about a throw-away beach vacation. As he radiates sensuality with a smooth southern drawl, Tully manages to get by with just a guitar and a smile.

Best pal and bartender, Brick (Charlie Pollock) is the good-guy-goof-ball. Happy go lucky and a bit loopy, Pollock hits the mark as the sidekick.

All is rolling along for the guys in their endless party – enjoying a fast and easy lifestyle – until Rachel (Alison Luff) arrives with her B.F.F. Luff radiates warmth and determination.

B.F.F. Tammy (Lisa Howard) just wants to enjoy her bachelorette week without remorse. Howard’s rock-solid voice coupled with a sparkle of mischief is engaging.

Without Marley (Rema Webb), the proprietress, all would run amuck. Webb is charismatic, witty and in-charge without being bossy. She can even inspire Jamal (Andre Ward) into action. Both Webb and Ward own their lyrical Caribbean dialects.

The less-than sober pilot, J.D. (Don Sparks) has a rich baritone voice as he bungles through stealing scenes looking for his “lost shaker of salt”.

Supported by an outstanding ensemble of singers and dancers, “Escape to Margaritaville” embraces Parrotheads and revelry.

For tickets go to www.LaJollaPlayhouse.org or call the box office at 858 550-1010. The show runs until July 9. Closed Tuesdays.

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