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story.lead_photo.caption Shelly Lynn Walsh is Tammy, Peter Michael Jordan is Brick, Chris Clark is Tully, Sarah Hinrichsen is Rachel in Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/MATTHEW MURPHY)

Need a change in latitude? Maybe a change in attitude? Jimmy Buffett's Escape to Margaritaville could be the show for you.

The touring production, featuring Buffett songs with a book by Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley, is onstage Tuesday-Oct. 27 at Fayetteville's Walton Arts Center and then travels to Little Rock for shows Nov. 1-3 at Robinson Center Performance Hall.

The tour launched Sept. 29 in Providence, R.I., and Chris Clark has signed up through July 5 to play the Buffett-esque lead role of Tully, who entertains world-weary patrons on an island resort called -- you guessed it -- Margaritaville.

The show has been compared to Mamma Mia!, in that it has a construct story that connects the songs: two career-minded young Ohio women (Sarah Hinrichsen as Rachel and Shelly Lynn Walsh as Tammy) vacationing at a rundown Caribbean hotel end up making a romantic connection to two island slackers (Clark and Peter Michael Jordan).

"Tully has a little back story that we delve into," Clark says. "He has a nice little monologue he gets to tell Rachel as they slowly fall in love.

"His whole deal is that he came to escape everything and that he's afraid of getting close to people because Tully's whole mission is to give everybody on the island a great vacation, and he thinks that if women get too close to him, he'll just bore them and they won't have a good time. But there's something about Rachel [that] cracks his shell.

"So he tells her he's from North Carolina, his mom cleans houses and his father has a fishing boat, just like his father, and that launches us into 'Son of a Son of a Sailor,' which is a great Tully back-story song."

Sarah Hinrichsen is Rachel and Chris Clark is Tully in Jimmy Buffett’s "Escape to Margaritaville." (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/MATTHEW MURPHY)
Sarah Hinrichsen is Rachel and Chris Clark is Tully in Jimmy Buffett’s "Escape to Margaritaville." (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/MATTHEW MURPHY)

Tully, too, is escaping, "all the things that we don't like about life, like traffic and [high]-interest loans and people constantly glued to their cellphones. Just like all the vacationers on the island, Tully's there to get away from it all.

"He is happy to work for Marley [Rachel Lyn Fobbs], who owns the resort; she's like a mother figure to him. And honestly, he's kind of happy just playing guitar and telling stories.

"He's not based on Buffett, but he's a very Buffett-esque character -- just busking on the bandstand. He has dreams of becoming a recording artist, but he has a line about, 'Everybody who picks up a guitar dreams of being famous but chasing that kind of thing is like playing the lottery.' He's afraid of failure."

Clark says the script cleverly links the storyline to the songs.

"The way the writers get us to 'Margaritaville' is very, very cool," he says. "It's the first-act closer. It starts out as a very somber 'loss of love' song that grows into this big band major party number" that also ties in the audience: "We definitely treat [them] like they're tourists on the beach."

The music is a mix of new songs Buffett wrote just for the show, "and there's also classics everybody knows and loves," Clark says. "'Margaritaville,' 'Cheeseburger in Paradise,' 'Fins,' 'A Pirate Looks at Forty.' So there's something there for [everyone from] just casual Buffett fans to Parrotheads," as dedicated Buffett fans are known.

"And our orchestrators did a great job of giving some of the songs a Broadway makeover, so it has that big Broadway band sound" -- there's a band on stage that interacts with the characters. "So there's something there for the theater lover as well."

The show lasts about two and a half hours, "and we'll leave you hummin' some Buffett," Clark says.

And yes, audiences do sing along. "A lot of Parrotheads are humming it or yelling it out," he says.

Style on 10/20/2019

Print Headline: Escape to Margaritaville a musical vacation


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