Attention, Parrotheads! Your captain just set sail toward the nation’s capital.
Jimmy Buffett brings the U.S. national tour of his stage musical “Escape to Margaritaville” to National Theatre for one week this Tuesday through Sunday.
“It started right here in Washington D.C.,” Buffett told WTOP. “A friend of mine, the great Jack Boyle, who ran the Cellar Door in Georgetown, believed in me long before anybody else years ago when I was a solo act. He brought me to the D.C. area. … He was a big fan of [‘The Caine Mutiny’ author] Herman Wouk and Jack Boyle said, ‘You ought to look at ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’ as a musical.’”
So, Buffett left his sailboat in the Caribbean and set out to find Wouk, who had written the 1965 novel that inspired Buffet’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival” album.
Thus, “Escape to Margaritaville” was born, debuting in San Diego in 2017 before hitting New Orleans, Houston, Chicago and ultimately Broadway in 2018. This time, Buffett hired Emmy winner Greg Garcia (“My Name is Earl”) and Emmy nominee Mike O’Malley (“Shameless”) to weave a story around his greatest hits.
“When the writers came along, it was very important that they were part of that group of people who were basically Parrotheads,” Buffett said. “It was important that the music was a part of their lives and it wasn’t just a writing assignment. Authenticity was absolutely important. They knew the songs enough to stitch together a story. … It’s all just recognition and energy. You’ve got energy up, energy down. That’s the way you write any show, you got the highs and lows.”
“I did the same thing,” Buffett said. “There’s a scene where the girl that he’s interested in asks him questions that make him nervous about why did you come here? It’s a great little speech and at the end he goes, ‘The cold.’ That’s why I went to Key West — to get warm. … Then there’s two women on vacation who are best friends. One is very carefree, the other is a stick-in-the-mud … but eventually the margaritas and sun change her attitude — and her latitude!”
“Most of the songs that I write are autobiographical,” Buffett said. “Having that much material that’s affected people in a positive way with a little release from the tediousness of daily life, I was so lucky to just get that job and wound up in Key West, Florida, which accelerated the process writing about places I loved. Then I realized that was in everybody’s culture and everybody needs a couple days off, so I was lucky enough to kind of put my thumb on that pulse beat.”
“I love musical theater,” Buffett said. “My mother was a great local performer in Mobile, Alabama, so I would go to shows with her [like] ‘South Pacific.’ So it’s nice to come full circle. Plus, Jack was so good to me in the D.C. area, to give me a break and play the Cellar Door in those days. I still have a $300 check I never cashed for a week at Cellar Door. I still have it framed in my office!”
You might even see him at National Theatre, confirming he’ll attend Tuesday.
“I’m very excited,” Buffett said. “I’ve seen this cast. They’re very young and very invigorating. It’s like minor league ball. I love baseball. It’s just like seeing everybody at that level and it’s always part of the process. This is where you start if you want to go the distance. I was lucky enough to make it that way and my biggest thrill would be if kids who starred in this show had that same experience.”