Cast your line off the askew wooden dock, a distressed beach shack behind you, and dangling fairy lights overhead, and you’re sure to catch a nostalgic performance of the jukebox musical, “Escape to Margaritaville” at the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts. Showcasing a compendium of songs by Jimmy Buffet with a book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley, this crew of Fredericksburg beach bums brings you dinner and a show like no other.
A show filled with heart, whimsy, and imagination…
“Escape to Margaritaville” premiered in San Diego in 2017, where it then moved to Broadway in 2018 and a national tour in 2019. Although not so well-received by critics, “Escape to Margaritaville” is a vibrant ode to Jimmy Buffet, delighting Parrotheads (Buffet fans) and the average theatergoer alike.
A combination of dinner and a show, the show was brought to the audience as the ensemble cast acted as servers before the show began. Clad in Hawaiian shirts, the entire team (including our amazing server Nick), offered true hospitality, making even those who traveled from an hour away feel right at home.
The show itself offered the same whimsy and sense of home. As Tully, the laid-back guitar-loving, island dweller, Jake David Smith enchanted the audience with his boy-next-door demeanor. He commanded the stage, his lovesick energy washing over the crowd as he sang. Opposite him was the career-minded ecologist Rachel, played by Juliette Redden. Redden’s crystal clear voice soared, melding with Smith’s grounded harmonies during duets like “Coast of Marseille.”
Tammy and Brick, played by Gabrielle Gutierrez and Brendan Hale respectively, acted as a comedic counterparts throughout the show. Cackling together over fifth-grade puns, the duo emanated energy. Hale’s twang blended with Gutierrez’s powerful riffs during “We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About,” their comedic façade cracking for some truly emotional moments. The pop-top dropping, saltshaker-losing J.D. was portrayed by Alan Hoffman, his drunken ramblings quoting un-sung Jimmy Buffet favorites. His voice full of wisdom and nostalgia, he warbled “He Went to Paris” with a knowing twinkle in his eye. Keeping the ship running was Cantrella Canady as Marley, doting over the struggling hotel with a motherly air. As the resident gossipmonger, Canady shushed the ensemble and audience during “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw,” inciting raucous laughter.
The ensemble recycled throughout the show, playing a mixture of tourists, wedding attendees, hockey bros, weather correspondents, and TSA agents. Clad in swimsuits, dress clothes, or jerseys, the entire ensemble filled out each scene, their clean choreography and charming voices creating the island attitude.
Christian Fleming’s aforementioned set beside Weston Corey’s tactful sunset on the cyclorama and meshing with J. Pat Bragg’s soundscape created the beach in the middle of Fredericksburg. Kyna Chilcot’s vibrant and colorful costuming helped the ensemble transition between their many roles and showcase Stephanie Wood’s choreography, including some exceptionally clean tap dancing. The passion for the project was clearly seen in the implicit direction and music direction by Robert A. K. Gonyo and Carson Eubank respectively. Each cast member seemed to be having the time of their life. The show couldn’t have been complete without the orchestra, masterfully conducted by Eubank.
Order a margarita and enjoy a meal while you chill out in the world of Jimmy Buffet. A show filled with heart, whimsy, and imagination, Riverside Center for the Performing Arts’ production of “Escape to Margaritaville” will have you with your hands above your head, fins swinging left and right.
Running Time: Approximately two hours with a 15 minute intermission.
“Escape to Margaritaville” runs through March 5, 2023 at the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts, 95 Riverside Pkwy, Fredericksburg, VA 22406. For more information, go online. Box Office Hours: 10 am – 6 pm, Mon., Tues., Wed.; 10 am – 7:30 pm, Thurs., Fri.; 12 pm – 7:30 pm, Sat.; 12 pm – 3 pm, Sun. Call (540) 370-4300. Tickets can also be purchased online.