Escape to Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet’s jukebox Broadway musical, opened to negative reviews at the Marquis Theatre, and the box office does not look especially promising.
Jimmy Buffett’s Broadway Endeavor is Open and Running
On March 15, 2018, Escape to Margaritaville opened at the Marquis Theatre, where it had been running in previews since February 16, 2018. The show is still scheduled for an open-ended run. The musical has a book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley, with music and lyrics by Jimmy Buffett. The show is directed by Christopher Ashley and choreographed by Kelly Devine. The cast is led by Alison Luff as Rachel, Paul Alexander Nolan as Tully, Lisa Howard as Tammy, Eric Petersen as Brick, Don Sparks as J.D., Andre Ward as Jamal/Ted, and Rema Webb as Marley, along with a sizeable ensemble. The show comes to Broadway after a lengthy out-of-town tryout series, including productions in La Jolla, Chicago, Houston, and New Orleans. The story follows a man named Tully (Paul Alexander Nolan), who is a part-time bartender at Margaritaville, a run-down hotel on a small Caribbean island, and also a part-time singer. When an ambitious tourist named Rachel (Alison Luff) comes to visit, she takes his heart away and makes him question the island lifestyle. The show lives in the world that Jimmy Buffett has created for himself and his large fanbase, which promotes the easy living island lifestyle. The jukebox musical includes many of Buffett’s most popular songs, including “License to Chill,” “Fins,” “It's Five O'Clock Somewhere,” “Ragtop Day,” “It’s My Job,” “Why Don't We Get Drunk,” “Three Chords,” “We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About,” “Son of a Son of a Sailor,” “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don’t Love Jesus,” “Margaritaville,” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
Negative to Mixed Reviews, Unpromising Box Office
In his review for Escape to Margaritaville, Jesse Green of the New York Times said the good news is that it makes “getting sloshed on Broadway” easier than ever, but the bad news is “you still have to see the show.” Joe Dziemianowicz from the New York Daily News was equally negative in his response, saying that it “may fit the bill if you’re in the mood for a breezy but dopey diversion,” but does admit that the show makes it easy to see why Buffett has built such a large fanbase. Franck Scheck from The Hollywood Reporter was more on the fence, saying that it is “the theatrical equivalent of sipping on a frozen drink while lying on a beach chair in the blazing sun.” Nick Maslow from Entertainment Weekly also qualified his critique by saying that it “was designed for Baby Boomers…who want to sing along to that hit they listened to while getting stoned on the beach in the ’70s.”
With this tepid critical response, it’s no surprise the box office has also been uninspired. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending March 11, 2018, Escape to Margaritaville brought in a weekly gross of $625,317, which represents 35.67% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $247.00, the average paid admission was $63.12, and the audience was filled up to an average of 76.2% of its capacity. While the first partial week of just two preview performances had an artificially high percentage reached of its gross potential, as it was just two shows, the overall average gross to date is just 53.01% of the show’s gross potential. Therefore, independent of the reviews, the fanbase for Jimmy Buffett’s vision of Margaritaville does not seem to be large enough to saturate the necessity for a profit-making Broadway show. If the reviews were extraordinarily positive, perhaps the Margaritaville fever would have spread beyond Buffett’s established fans, but as it stands, Escape to Margaritaville does not seem to have a lot of longevity in its future.