‘Escape to Margaritaville’ charms at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

You don’t have to be a die-hard Jimmy Buffett fan to enjoy yourself at this tropical party of a show.

Riverside Center for the Performing Arts is kicking off its 25th year with one party of a production! Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville has everything a good celebration needs: tropical drinks on the beach, lively music and dancing, romance, and even a smattering of zombies (you read that right).

Robert A. K. Gonyo directs this charming production, with music and lyrics by Jimmy Buffett and book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley. Scenic Designer Christian Fleming does a great job transforming the stage into a run-down Caribbean resort, with artfully laid twinkle lights and colorful patio furniture that is (almost) pretty enough to distract your eye from the ramshackle wooden bar. This is Margaritaville, where people are on “island time” and your troubles are left on the shore, as shown in the number “Five O’Clock Somewhere.”

Jake David Smith as Tully and Juliette Redden as Rachel in ‘Escape to Margaritaville.’ Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts.

It’s here where a laid-back local, singer Tully (Jake David Smith), meets tourist Rachel (Juliette Redden), a smart, driven workaholic who panics when she realizes that the island doesn’t have WiFi. She is traveling with her best friend Tammy (Gabrielle Gutierrez) for a last hurrah before Tammy’s wedding—that is, unless Rachel can talk Tammy out of marrying her jerk of a fiancé. For Tully and Rachel, it’s a classic case of opposites attract/clash/attract again.

What follows is your standard rom-com formula peppered with hits from Buffett’s beloved catalog. Music Director Carson Eubank leads a seven-piece band offstage, and the masterful live music alone is reason enough to catch a showing. While the plot itself is pretty predictable, the music, vocals, and choreography by Stephanie Wood make it a unique powerhouse of a show. Alan Hoffman does a great job stumbling across the stage as the local drunk J.D., and his number “Why Don’t We Get Drunk (and Screw)” is pretty memorable. He spends his time chasing Marley (Cantrella Canady), the harried resort manager who has much better things to do.

Brendan Hale is sweet and silly as Brick, the bartender who balks when Tammy shares that her fiancé has put her on a restricted diet of carrot juice and sunflower seeds. Their number “We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About” stirs up forbidden chemistry between the two, and a lot of the show’s offbeat charm comes from their budding relationship.

The Ensemble in ‘Escape to Margaritaville.’ Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts.

The ensemble cycles itself through many different characters, from vacationers to city folk to… zombies. They provide great support to the lead actors, with some stealing the spotlight for themselves—Wilson Pezzuto is very charming as resort employee Jamal, who lazily sings his song “Volcano” on the ukelele amidst a scene of panic and chaos. The company does Buffett’s classics proud, particularly with the lively “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Leads Jake David Smith and Juliette Redden showcase beautiful vocals with their respectful numbers “License to Chill” and “It’s My Job.”

Wilson Pezzuto as Jamal in ‘Escape to Margaritaville.’ Photo courtesy of Riverside Center for the Performing Arts.

You don’t have to be a die-hard Jimmy Buffett fan to enjoy yourself at this show. What it offers is carefree escapism at a time when a lot of us need it. It may be frigid outside, but Riverside’s throwing a tropical party until early March—take off your winter coat and join in!

Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville plays through March 5, 2023, at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts, 95 Riverside Parkway, Fredericksburg, VA. For tickets, call (540) 370-4300 or purchase them online. 

Adult Dinner & Show – $75 (plus applicable taxes)
Seniors (65+) Dinner & Show – $70 (plus applicable taxes)
Adult Show Only – $60
Seniors (65+) Show Only – $55
Children (3-12) Show Only – $55
There will be a $5.00 online processing fee added per ticket.

COVID Safety: Staff wears masks when working the floor (meal-service portion). Patrons are not required to be masked in the facility; but if patrons want to wear a mask, they are welcome to.


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