Jimmy Buffett, the perennially sunny singer, blender salesman, and owner of the coconut- and Aspercreme-scented community where your parents will retire, can now add his own Broadway musical to his lengthy resume. According to the New York Times, at one point last year before Escape to Margaritaville opened, Buffett’s biggest concern wasn’t the story or the assortment of his own songs that composed the soundtrack, but that the actor playing the loose, fictionalized version of himself wasn’t tan enough. He clearly should’ve focused on something else, like how the show is less enjoyable than cutting your heel on a pop-top.
On one of its first nights at the Marquis Theatre, the lobby bar ran out of margaritas. That should’ve been the worst thing that the crowd had to endure but, unfortunately, the curtain came up and the show went on. “If ever there were a time to be drunk in the theater, this is it,” the New York Times wrote, on a night when there was adequate pre-show booze.
After its opening weekend, the reviews have been almost unyieldingly brutal—but not undeservingly so. The plot of Escape to Margaritaville follows a beach bum-slash-bar singer, who has a week-long relationship with an environmental scientist, who is trying to develop a potato-based fuel. At one point, a volcano erupts. At another, a character made entirely of Viagra jokes sings “Why Don’t We Get Drunk (and Screw).” It’s exactly what you’ve imagined it would be, which is either amazing or awful, depending on how much you enjoy Jimmy Buffett.
The Washington Post called it “lamely antiseptic,” and that might’ve been the most charitable phrase in its six-paragraph summary. Critic Peter Marks described it as an “insufferably dumb show about a beach bum guitarist who falls for an environmental scientist while his bartender buddy suffers flashbacks filled with tap-dancing life insurance agents.”
Variety yawned over its “corny story” and “energetic if unimaginative choreography,” although the reviewer did praise the onstage band. “However well packaged, the show just isn’t a good fit for New York, where it arrived by way of San Diego, New Orleans, and those tropical resort towns, Chicago and Houston,” it said.
“Escape to Margaritaville is about as much fun as buying a dud hermit crab as a pet,” Vulture sighed. “It seems like it’ll be exotic, or at least cute, but it’s really kind of sad, and definitely a rip-off, and, at the end of the day, actually just an empty shell.”
The New York Post gave it two and a half stars, praised the show as being “well cast and sung,” but then suggested that it was better savored by Buffett’s self-described Parrothead fans and maybe not anyone who has accumulated a large stack of Playbills. Or maybe, like, any other Playbills.
That devoted fans-only attitude was largely echoed by The Daily Beast. “If you feel like cheering on a woman of a perfectly normal weight asserting her right to eat fast food, then 'Cheeseburger In Paradise,' featuring both trapeze and multiple cheeseburgers, will never sound sweeter than it does here,” it said.
This will clearly not discourage anyone who truly loves Jimmy Buffett, the people who will wear foam shark fins and grass skirts on a 40-degree weeknight. But everyone else? You might have more fun looking at Latitude Margaritaville brochures with your parents.