Reviewed by: Justin Williams

Highly Recommended

Entering the Oriental Theatre for the opening of Jimmy Buffett’s pre-Broadway bound Escape to Margaritaville, I was unsure of what to expect. It is not always a guarantee that taking a singer/songwriters songbook and making it into a musical is going to be a success. Often times it ends up being more of a concert than a show, where the lyrics to really add to the story and don’t progress or develop characters.

I was thrilled as big Jimmy Buffett fan this was not the case.  Escape to Margaritaville is an experience. Much like Jimmy Buffett’s music and books, the musical is filled with humor, heart, and of course some drinking.

Paul Alexander Nolan leads the cast as the bar singer Tully, who likes to make sure visitors of the island have a good time.  Nolan, who recently made his Broadway debut as the title character in revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, has a beautiful voice and wonderful execution throughout the show. His smooth adopted island ways of thinking are contagious and makes you want to just relax and enjoy life.

Alison Luff plays workaholic Rachel who is on the island to collect some soil samples who brings along her best friend Tammy (Lisa Howard) to celebrate her Bachelorette party. Not entirely sure she is marrying the right man, Tammy wants to let loose on the island. Howard delivers one of the most memorable performances of the evening. Howard gets the Buffett classic “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and she brings down the house with it. Howard’s timing and execution are spot on and her voice is just incredible.

Eric Peterson is hilarious Tully’s best friend Brickas, the squirrelly sidekick who brings a stellar voice to the role. His comedic timing is spot on throughout the show and his number “Grapefruit – Juicy Fruit” is a standout. Peterson’s chemistry with Howard is perfect providing the audience with some gut busting puns.

Rema Webb is delightful as Marley, the owner of the Margaritaville resort and Andre Ward plays Jamal the dishwasher at the resort. Ward provides us with one of the best Act Two openers in “Volcano”.

Don Sparks plays the lovable island drunkard J.D. Having his plane hidden by Marley  he settles for drinking old beer and writing his memoirs at the bar. Sparks gives a performance that is filled with heart. He executes both the comedy and the tender parts of his character. Sparks is responsible for my favorite moments of the show, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” was an audience favorite as he got the audience to fill in the rest of the song title. “He Went To Paris” is also one of the more tender moments of the show and is perfect as a trio with Sparks, Peterson, and Nolan.

The most impressive aspect of Escape to Margaritaville is how Jimmy Buffett and the book writers (Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley) made every lyric from pre-existing songs progress both characters  story. One of the most memorable lessons I have learned from being in the theatre is that audience members are almost always looking for a two hour escape. Last night a tropical escape was found in Margaritaville, and boy what a party it was.

Escape to Margaritaville runs to December 2,2017 at Broadway In Chicago’s Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph).  Tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices, the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000 and online at

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