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‘Escape to Margaritaville’ review: ‘Don’t know the reason’ for this show

The show contains many of Buffett’s crowd-pleasers such as “Margaritaville,” “Fins,” “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” “Son of a Son of a Sailor” and “Why Don’t We Get Drunk.”

"Escape to Margaritaville" star Paul Alexander Nolan plays the guitar alongside the show's original Broadway cast. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

‘Escape to Margaritaville’ plays an open run at the Marquis Theatre. 210 W. 46th St., escapetomargaritavillemusical.com.

The most important thing to know about “Escape to Margaritaville,” the new jukebox musical built around the easy-listening hits of tropical/folk/country rock singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, is that margaritas are indeed available for purchase and can be consumed throughout the show. You’ll need them.

At best, “Escape to Margaritaville” is well-meaning, harmless and pleasant to listen to. It contains many of Buffett’s crowd-pleasers such as “Margaritaville,” “Fins,” “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” “Son of a Son of a Sailor” and “Why Don’t We Get Drunk.”

With better handling, the show may have become the “Cheeseburger in Paradise” that it desires to be — a cheesy, kitschy, escapist, feel-good jukebox musical in the vein of ”Mamma Mia!,” which also takes place at a ramshackle island resort.

Speaking of “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” which is performed during act two with high-wire flying, I was relieved that the stage did not become consumed by a giant cheeseburger and that cheeseburgers were not pelted at the audience.

The cast is populated by bright and likable young performers, though their performances tend to be broad and bland.

Its romantic comedy storyline — involving a lazy, guitar-playing beach bum (Paul Alexander Nolan) and a hardworking environmental scientist (Alison Luff) and their best friends (Eric Peterson and Lisa Howard) — cannot manage even the most minimal amount of plot and character development necessary to hold together a jukebox musical. A volcano needs to erupt in order to justify the second act. The attempts at humor are labored and embarrassing.

During one scene, I couldn’t help but notice how a sign for Landshark Lager is so prominently featured. It turns out that Landshark is distributed under Buffett’s Margaritaville Brewing label.

The ability to consume alcohol during the show certainly helps to put one in a relaxed, less critical state of mind. But all things considered, you might be better off downing margaritas at a beach bar while listening to a Buffett album.

“Escape to Margaritaville” will hit its stride if it can play to the same crowds that attend Buffett’s concerts every year. It could also serve as in-house entertainment at Buffett’s various resorts and casinos. As for Broadway, pass the salt — or rather (as the crowd chants during “Margaritaville”) “Salt! Salt! Salt!”

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