When La Jolla Playhouse opens its 2017 season next May, don’t be surprised if the audience is swarming with Parrotheads, those diehard devotees of singer-songwriter and "son of a son of a sailor" Jimmy Buffett. Buffett songs both classic and new will rock the world premiere of Escape to Margaritaville, a story set on a tropical island written by TV writer-producer Greg Garcia and actor-writer Mike O’Malley (Yes, Dear) and directed by the Playhouse’s Christopher Ashley.
"For 10 or 15 years, all kinds of different people have been trying to figure out how you wrap Jimmy Buffett into a new musical," Ashley recounts. "This is the first time Jimmy felt like people had created a show that honors the spirit of his music."
Escape to Margaritaville will bring together a bartender-singer with a carefree worldview ("Let’s relax, kick back, enjoy ourselves, not take ourselves too seriously, grab a piña colada," as Ashley describes it) and a beautiful woman with a type-A personality, served up with Buffett tunes and choreography by Broadway veteran Kelly Devine (Rock of Ages, Come From Away).
"Hopefully," Ashley says, "we’re creating a show that is satisfying for people who know every note Buffett’s ever written and also for people who only know ‘the song.’" He adds that the production is "a great combination of people from the rock world and theater makers. Everyone is joined by their appreciation of Jimmy Buffett."
As for San Diego being the right place for this long-dreamed-of Buffett musical? Put those feet up and take a look around ("at all those tourists covered with oil"). "There’s so much of the Jimmy Buffett vibe here," Ashley says. "If we do our work right, it’s going to be a fun show." Until then, we’ll just drink a frozen concoction to help us hang on!