It won’t be arriving in Chicago until fall 2017, so it’s doubtful you will be “nibblin’ on spongecake [and] watchin’ the sun bake [with] all of those tourists covered with oil” when it gets to town. But at least you can begin strumming on your six-string and boiling up a pot of shrimp.
That’s because Broadway In Chicago and producers Frank Marshall, Mindy Rich, Anita Waxman and Beth Williams have announced that “Escape to Margaritaville,” the new musical featuring the songs of legendary singer-songwriter-author Jimmy Buffett, will play a limited engagement beginning Nov. 9, 2017, at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph.
Billed as a pre-Broadway engagement in Chicago, the show will have its initial performances at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse in May and June 2017.
“Escape to Margaritaville” will feature an original story by co-book writers Greg Garcia (“My Name is Earl”) and actor-writer Mike O’Malley (“Survivor’s Remorse,” “Shameless”) and will involve a creative team with a slew of Tony Awards and nominations to their credit, including director Christopher Ashley (artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse), choreographer Kelly Devine, scenic designer Walt Spangler, costume designer Paul Tazewell, lighting designer Howell Binkley, sound designer Brian Ronan and music supervisor Christopher Jahnke. Casting will be announced at a later date.
The musical, which will use Buffett classics with the songwriter also penning several original songs, is set at a non-specific tropical island resort and tells the story of Tully, “a part-time bartender, part-time singer and full-time good ol’ boy charmer who thinks he’s got life all figured out” — until, that is, a beautiful, career-minded tourist steals his heart and makes him question everything.
O’Malley, who turned to writing after realizing he wasn’t “the triple-threat actor-singer-dancer you needed to be if you want to perform in musicals,” first met Buffett in 2007 when he was asked to develop a TV project inspired by Buffett’s short stories. The project never took off, but producer Frank Marshall subsequently asked him to adapt Buffett’s songs for a musical.
“The daunting task for Greg [Garcia] and me was to find a story that could spin around Buffett’s huge catalog from the 1960s till now,” O’Malley said in an interview. “Buffett has such an amazing ability to tap into what Americans really care about: relationships, family, friends. We based our story around the clues we found in his songs.”
While this jukebox approach is hardly new — consider “Mamma Mia!,” “Million Dollar Quartet” and the biographical “Jersey Boys” — O’Malley confessed: “You realize very quickly that each project is its own thing, and you can’t escape the process.
“With Buffett songs, I think one theme is how people want to get away from the daily routine, and just relax and focus on who they love and what they want to be doing in their lives. Some of his songs give you the license to chill out, but others are looking back on the night before chaos. There is quite a difference between a song like ‘Come Monday’ and ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise,’ and the songs on the ‘Coconut Telegraph’ album.”
Asked if he had spent time on a “mystical unknown island” like the character of Tully, the New England-bred O’Malley said: “Well, I lived on Martha’s Vineyard, and like most islands, you can’t drive off it and just hit the road. You have to wait for a ferry or a plane.”
“Escape to Margaritaville” will be part of the next Broadway In Chicago season subscription series set to go on sale next month. Group tickets for 10 or more for the show are available now by calling (312) 977-1710. Individual tickets will go on sale at a later date. For additional information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.