“Escape to Margaritaville” at Parker Arts

ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE – Book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley; Music and Lyrics by Jimmy Buffett; Directed and Choreographed by Kelly Van Oosbree; Music Directed by Andrew Fischer.  Presented by Parker Arts (produced by Give 5 Productions at the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker) through July 16.  Tickets available at 303-805-6800 or ParkerArts.org.

Just imagine the problem that Garcia and O’Malley faced when they tackled the creation of a show based on the music of Jimmy Buffett.  They no doubt had access to Buffett’s extensive catalog of hundreds of songs from which to choose.  But where to start?  A bar is a good start.  A bar on a beach, even better.  A bar on a beach on an island!  That’s got it!!  How about something that gently pokes fun at both tourists and islanders?  Throw in a couple of romances. . . . maybe a couple of older characters for comedy.  If they want to get them off the island for part of the show, throw in a volcano.

The philosophy behind this light-hearted concoction is that more people should lead an island kind of life.  The harder parts of life can be handed if you just “breathe in, breathe out, move on.”  Most problems can be solved with healthy doses of music and rum.  Not a bad way of looking at things.

Jake Bell plays Tully, the island Romeo, who demonstrates his “sincere” nature when, in the opening scene, he can’t remember the name or hometown of his girlfriend of the week.  The next week’s boat brings a more formidable challenge in the form of Rachel, played by Jamie Molina, as an environmentalist.  She is accompanying her best friend Tammy, a bride to be, on a bachelorette vacation before the big day.  Rachel has a much more serious attitude about life, but the island ultimately works its magic.  This leads to Tully finding his shoe firmly planted on the wrong foot.

In the meantime, Tammy (Brekkan Baker), the bride to be, has promised her fiancé (Damon Guerassio) that there would be no fooling around while she’s on the island.  But then she also promised to stay on her diet to meet his demands for a skinny bride.  Tammy immediately connects with Brick, the hotel bartender (Nick Rigg Johnson).  Despite their obvious attraction, they stay strong and build a friendship. For now.

The senior roles of Marley and J.D. are played with humor and finesse by Sonsharae Tull and Rick Long.  Sonsharae gives her role of the bar owner a resigned tolerance of the foolishness going on around her that pays her bills.  Rick as J.D. steals the show every time he opens his smartass mouth and wanders around the stage looking for his “lost shaker of salt.”  And he knows whose fault it is.  Rick takes what could have been a throwaway role and makes it the heart of the production.  His wicked grin and comic delivery of cheeky remarks wins the day.

A Kelly Van Oosbree production always features creative well-staged dances performed by well-trained dancers who seem to rise to new levels of skill under her tutelage.  This show is no exception.  The witty staging of “License to Chill” as an opener and “Fins” as we meet the new boatload of tourists keep us firmly planted in our temporary island paradise.  As always, her understanding of how all the components of a musical production – lights, sound, projections, set pieces, movement – all working together allow the composition of beautiful stage pictures.

All too often, the contributions of the people behind the curtains are overlooked.  Having done shows at the PACE Center in the past, I know personally how hard all of that crew works to make your afternoon or evening at the theatre a success.  The PACE Center is blessed with a full-time staff and crew who have worked together long enough to provide a level of professionalism difficult to achieve otherwise.  To this crew of Britni, Kevin, Roderick, David, Matt and the stage management crew of Lara, Bennie, Bella and Cade go special kudos.  They make the whole thing look easy.A WOW factor of 8.5!!

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