Want to visit a place where work is a dirty word and it’s always five o’clock? Toby’s Dinner Theatre’s Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville will take you there. This jukebox musical premiered on Broadway in February 2018. The show is based on the hits of singer Jimmy Buffett and features his music and lyrics. The book is by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley, who were nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy, respectively.
Jimmy Buffett’s fans typically sport Hawaiian shirts and are called Parrotheads. But you needn’t be a Parrothead to appreciate Music Director Ross Scott Rawlings’ orchestration. Standouts for me were the cheery and colorful “License to Chill,” the house-pleasing “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw,” the reggae-infused “Volcano,” and the titular “Margaritaville.”
On a small Caribbean island, singer and guitarist Tully Mars performs at Margaritaville, a run-down hotel. Throughout their hotel stays, Tully has had brief affairs with female visitors. Rachel and Tammy, from Cincinnati, Ohio, are getting ready to vacation at Margaritaville before Tammy gets married.
On the island, Tully, who likes to keep his romances “on the surface,” dates Rachel, and Brick dates Tammy. The storyline is predictable from there.
Other colorful characters include Brick, a bartender; Jamal, the busboy; Marley, the hotel owner; and JD, a one-eyed beach bum who spends his days “wasting away” at the Margaritaville bar.
The choreography and colorful, tropical costumes made this a show of high quality. The actors frequently moved in concentric circles and other coordinated formations, thanks to Director and Choreographer Mark Minnick. Dance Captain Amanda Kaplan-Landstrom aided in the dance moves. Costume Designer Janine Sunday brought forth a beach mood with her use of colorful shirts and short skirts.
Robert John Biedermann brought JD’s old-codger charm into effect with his memorable performance. With over 50 productions at Toby’s, Biedermann brought three strong dimensions to his character.
Asia-Ligé Arnold, also seen recently in Toby’s Grease, made Marley bossy but likable. She had great chemistry with Biedermann, and their scenes got funnier as love (or lust?) blossomed between them.
Tammy, played by Anna Phillips-Brown, showed that many of the characters were fleeing something. Having left behind a hockey-crazed, vegan fiancé in Cincinnati named Chadd, Tammy expressed herself in tunes like “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” and “We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About.”
Rachel, played by Kathleen West in her Toby’s debut, was an environmental scientist who let her proverbial hair down with Tully, played by Patrick Gover (recently seen in Grease). I loved their duets “Son of a Son of a Sailor” and the slow and heartfelt “Coast of Marseilles.”
Gover also impressed me with “King of Somewhere Hot” and “Margaritaville” (Buffett’s big 1977 hit) in which, it looked to me, he played an acoustic guitar before guitarists (Daniel Lewis, Rick Peralta, and Kim Spath) in the band took over. The same transition took place with “Tin Cup Chalice.”
Jordan B. Stocksdale made Tully’s sidekick Brick likable. He showed good pipes in “Cheeseburger in Paradise” with Phillips-Brown and the ensemble. That tune was Tammy’s pushback to her fiancé Chadd’s vegan ways.
Brandon Bedore made Chadd obnoxious and off-putting. Also notable was Anwar Thomas as Jamal.
The mini-volcano was impressive and the simple theater-in-the-round stage featured scenery wagons by Scenic and Lighting Designer David A. Hopkins. Sound Designer Johnny Pantazis made the volcano set piece boom.
I liked the scene-appropriate screen projection: snow and beaches. The ceiling was decorated with Christmas lights.
JD’s treasure chest looked old and weather-beaten. Properties Designer Shane Lowry did a good job here.
Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville will put you in a summertime mood. I highly recommend this one because it is a fun escape.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 20 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville plays through August 20, 2023, at Toby’s Dinner Theatre, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia, MD. Tickets ($57–$79) can be purchased by calling 410-730-8311 or online.
The program for Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville is online here.
The menu is here.
Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville
Book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley
Music and Lyrics by Jimmy Buffett
Tully: Patrick Gover
Brick: Jordan B. Stocksdale
Marley: Asia-Ligé Arnold
JD: Robert John Biedermann
Rachel: Kathleen West
Tammy: Anna Phillips-Brown
Chadd: Brandon Bedore
Goon #1: Joey Ellinghaus
Goon #2: Shawn Kettering
Jamal: Anwar Thomas
Ensemble: Valerie Adams Rigsbee, Brandon Bedore, Joey Ellinghaus, Angelo Harrington II, David James, Amanda Kaplan-Landstrom, Shawn Kettering, Alexis Krey-Bedore, Dustin Perrott, Cassie Saunders, Jeffrey Shankle, Patricia “Pep” Targete
ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE TEAM
Director/Choreography: Mark Minnick
Musical Direction: Ross Scott Rawlings
Assistant Conductor: Nathan Scavilla
Scenic Design and Lighting Design: David A. Hopkins
Sound Design: Johnny Pantazis
Costume Design: Janine Sunday
Properties Design: Shane Lowry
Dance Captain: Amanda Kaplan-Landstrom