Review: Escape to Margaritaville, starring Paul Alexander Nolan and Alison Luff


Jimmy Buffet is not the first thing someone would think of when they think about a Broadway musical. But boy does it work well. The new musical Escape to Margaritaville follows Tully (Paul Alexander Nolan), a musician and full-time charmer who thinks he has life all figured out until he meets Rachel (Alison Luff), a career minded tourist who turns his world upside down.

Alison Luff and Paul Alexander Nolan have some of the best on-stage chemistry I have seen. They make the story believable (with some help from the rest of the amazingly talented cast) and are some of the best actors on Broadway.

The entire cast is just amazing. Not only can they dance incredibly well but they are all true triple threats. Lisa Howard (Tammy), Eric Peterson (Brick), Rema Webb (Marley), Don Sparks (J.D.), and Andre Ward (Jamal/Ted) are all fantastic, as is the entire ensemble. As far as I could see there was not a single person who was out of step with the rest of the cast.

Walking into the theater, I only knew a few of the songs that would be featured. And to be completely honest, I was familiar with these song because I kept up with preview performances for the show and clips from the original production in La Jolla. However, by the end of the show (and after listening to the cast album on repeat), I found myself quite enamored by the songs. My favorites include "License to Chill", "Fins", "Three Chords", "Margaritaville", "Volcano", "Love and Luck Medley", "A Pirate Looks at Forty", and "One Particular Harbor".

One of the funniest parts of the show was not actually in the show. It was the audience. Everyone in the theater seemed to be incredibly happy, they sang along in a quiet whisper, and enjoyed shouting "SALT" when appropriate. It was a wonderful feeling to be in a theater where everyone was having a good time, some with margaritas in hand.

The set really made you feel like you were on a tropical island. The volcano was quite cool, as was the transition from Cincinnati, to a plane, to a boat, to the island with a bar and the musicians. While the show works really well already, it would interesting to know what the experience would be if there was stage seating, as there was in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, and as there is in Farinelli and the King. However, I think that just from the music (and the occasional breaking of the fourth wall) the audience is already pretty well settled into Margartiaville.

I may have already mentioned that the entire cast can dance phenomenally well, but the dancing weaves its way into the entire story wonderfully. During "License to Chill", the first song in the show, the dancing is insane. I would probably not do it justice by trying to explain what they do, but you'll see some of it in the clips below.

The choreography goes beyond what you see in that video. There are tap dancing insurance sales people, the dance to "Fins" turns into the safety instructions on a flight, and people become clouds as they fly away from the volcano. It takes a genius to work all that into the show. The costumes are also consistent with the island feel, including Lilly Pulitzer-esque dresses, shirts with floral print, and flip-flops.

Overall, I would recommend this show to anyone. It is really a feel good show that will have you dancing out of the theater (maybe with a beach ball in hand...) and you'll be waiting impatiently for summer.

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