From the get-go, it would be hard to describe Theatre Calgary’s Escape from Margaritaville as anything but fun.
With the opening number of Licence to Chill, audiences are given the opportunity to do just that—settle into a couple of hours of Jimmy Buffett’s greatest hits, paired with light romance and comedy that makes for an entertaining evening that isn’t just for Parrot Heads.
“They’re gonna have such a good time. Last night was our very first preview, and there was 400 plus people in the audience, and people were singing along to every single song,” said director Julie Tomaino.
“Not like not intrusively, but singing along, laughing at the puns and the jokes and all of the inside like easter egg Jimmy Buffett things. They’re just gonna have a rockin’ good time.”
That rockin’ good time will come from such Jimmy Buffett hits as Fins, Son of a Son of a Sailor, Cheeseburger in Paradise, and of course Margaritaville.
“Margaritaville, that was the only song I knew before learning about the show, and I’m a big Jimmy Buffett fan now,” said Tomaino.
That’s the case for the show in general. It offers audiences an escape from the regular day-to-day of Calgary and invites them into the perfect island getaway on stage. It’s complete with the iconic island bar and tiki hut for the live band that is accompanying the performance.
Beyond the set, which was designed by Tamara Maraie Kucheran, Theatre Calgary is also using its state-of-the-art LED backdrop in the Max Bell Theatre to ramp up the immersive island experience.
It’s all to add to the ambiance of the highly-engaging ensemble dance numbers that perfectly accompany Buffett’s songs.
Those were also choreographed by Tomaino, who took inspiration from Buffett’s music and from the music video for Fins.
“You have to develop the choreographic vocabulary that you’re going to use first, so I just do a lot of research,” she said.
“The Fins choreography is literally taken from his concert.”
Cast and costumes create the perfect getaway
The large cast is made up of Nathan Gibb Johnson, Katie McMillan, Glen Miles, Michelle Shuster, Cecilly Day, Doug McKeag, David Andrew Reid, Alexa Elser, Troy Goldthorp, Amelia Hironaka, Jessica Jones, Makayla Moore, Gregory Pember, and Joel Schaefer.
“This cast is so talented, and so generous and kind, that it’s been awesome. It’s just been awesome,” said Tomaino.
“They’re so so talented. Dancers, singers, actors, and contributors, collaborators: They have as many ideas as I have, and we all came together and we sorted through what’s the best one for the moment.”
On stage, that comes together for some big dance numbers, and some more intimate performances by Johnson as Tully and McMillan as Rachel.
Kucheran also perfectly recreates the platonic ideal of island wear for the cast, as the costume designer for the production.
Ultimately, said Tomaino, audiences will get to see something that will leave them with the experience of having a good time.
The show runs from April 18 through May 13 at the Max Bell Theatre.
Tickets are on sale now at www.theatrecalgary.com/shows/2022-2023-jimmy-buffetts-escape-to-margaritaville.
Photos from Escape to Margaritaville
Editor’s note: The original story (and photo cutlines) indicated the show was playing at the Martha Cohen Theatre. It’s playing at the Max Bell Theatre. We regret the error.