TV Vets Can’t Make ‘Margaritaville’ Fly

The Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical Escape to Margaritaville has opened in New York, and counts the TV producers Mike O’Malley, who was showrunner on Starz drama Survivor’s Remorse, and Greg Garcia, veteran of Yes, Dear and My Name Is Earl, as key figures in the production. O’Malley and Garcia wrote the book for Escape to Margaritaville.

“It’s been a whole different thing,” O’Malley told me back in 2016, “creating a musical from scratch.”

O’Malley said he grew up on the Beatles and the Stones more than Buffett. “I’m not a Parrothead, but I’ve kind of become one because the music is so infectious,” he said, noting how Buffett’s songs “an incredibly deep glimpse into the human condition.”

A New York Times review of Escape to Margaritaville was not kind. Writes Jesse Green:

“The good news is that Escape to Margaritaville, the Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical that opened on Thursday, makes getting sloshed on Broadway easier than ever. The lobby at the Marquis Theater has been kitted out as an island-style thatched-hut alcohol fueling station, complete with margaritas for $12 (on the rocks) or $16 (frozen), as well as bottle openers, koozies and other drink-oriented paraphernalia.

The bad news is that you still have to see the show.”

Parrotheads, as Buffett’s fans are known, will probably enjoy the show. Non-Parrotheads, and it looks like Jesse Green is in that group, may find it dreary. Green sums up main character Tully’s credo thusly: “Why scramble for The Man when you can sizzle and guzzle and fire up a fat spliff?”

He continues, “That theme could make for an amusing scene or two, but Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley, the authors of the musical’s book, have two hours and 20 minutes to fill. They are clever enough with the punch lines, but twists involving a volcano eruption, a buried treasure and a tap-dancing chorus of zombie insurance agents smell of general despair.”

The Washington Post did not like Margaritaville either, calling it, simply a “dud.” The review concludes, “At the end of the show, hundreds of beach balls are dumped on the audience. One of them ricocheted off the top of my head. It was the only thing all afternoon in the Marquis Theatre that I didn’t see coming.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.