During this weekend’s performance of Jimmy Buffet’s new Broadway show “Escape to Margaritaville,” the iconic singer appeared in the show’s closing number for a rendition of “Surry with the Fringe on Top” in honor of the 75th anniversary of “Oklahoma!.” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical had its original opening night on March 31, 1943, and Buffett, outfitted in one of his famed Hawaiian shirts and Easter bunny ears, gave his own spin on the tune along with the show’s cast.
“I grew up on Rodgers and Hammerstein and I wish my mother were here to see this!,” Buffett said following the performance. “Oklahoma!” ran for more than 2000 performances between 1943 and 1948 and has had four Broadway revivals since its original production, in 1951, 1953, 1979 and 2002. As part of a yearlong 75th anniversary celebration, other shows including “The King and I,” “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and “The Sound of Music” also celebrated “Oklahoma!” over the weekend.
Who does a musical hitmaker turn to for advice when attempting to launch a Broadway phenomenon? Well, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda seems like a pretty good bet these days. Jimmy Buffett, whose Broadway musical ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE debuts this week, did just that by enlisting his friend to give notes on the show as he was developing it. The two hitmakers talked about their friendship and buzzworthy projects during a Town Hall moderated by Justin McElroy on Buffett’s own SiriusXM channel Radio Margaritaville (Ch. 24).
Encore airings on Radio Margaritaville (Ch. 24): 3/23 at 6am, 5pm &11pm ET; 3/24 at 1pm &10pm ET; 3/25 at 9am, 2pm, 6pm &1am ET; 3/26 at Noon ET; 3/27 at 9pm ET; 3/28 at 3pm ET
Encore airings on SiriusXM On Broadway (Ch. 72): 3/23 at 8am & 12pm ET; 3/24 at 5pm &10pm ET; 3/25 at 2pm ET; 3/26 at 7am & 9pm ET
When picking the theater for his new Broadway show, Jimmy Buffett wanted to make sure his fans could tailgate in New York City. To his delight, the theater is across from a large hotel that allows his fans to, what he calls, Vertically Tailgate for his show.
Jimmy Buffett, the singer-songwriter behind the new Broadway musical “Escape to Margaritaville,” seems to have caught the theater bug — and he’s not throwing away his shot.
In a joint interview with Tony-winning “Hamilton” composer-star Lin-Manuel Miranda that aired on Sirius XM Friday, Buffett said that he really would like to play King George in Miranda’s hit hip-hop musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton.
“I can get some high-heel boots and then there we go,” Buffett said, after performing a few bars of the British monarch’s Act 1 number “You’ll Be Back.”
Buffett even suggested that he take on the role when Miranda reprises his Tony-nominated performance as Hamilton next January for a limited run in Puerto Rico.
“Can you imagine Jimmy Buffett as King George in Puerto Rico?” Miranda said to great laughter.
Responding to an audience question at the Sirius town hall, Miranda had originally suggested that Buffett might make a good George Washington in his show. “I mean, Jimmy is clearly the father of our country,” he joked.
Jimmy Buffett has never won a Grammy Award, and he’s not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so how come he’s richer than Bruce Springsteen? Some answers can be found at the Marquis Theatre, where we found him getting ready for the opening of his new musical.
Laid-back has rarely looked so good. The man making an “Escape to Margaritaville” has built a fortune by seeming like he doesn’t have a care in the world.
“The ability to have a little fun in life is necessary and even more so now,” Jimmy told me during final rehearsals of his new show.
“No, I did not,” he said. “I was just writing songs about people that I knew about and episodes in my own life.”
Buffett’s new Broadway show is but one small part of an empire. The musician is worth more than half a billion dollars, but the musical featuring his old tunes woven into a loose story is very close to his heart. Being on Broadway is one of his long held dreams.
“One of the cool things is walking to work down Broadway and being on Broadway, so to me, I still have to pinch myself to see that’s going to happen,” Buffet said. I asked him how that makes him feel and he replied, “You know I always love that Drifter’s song: ‘You know, the neon lights are bright on Broadway.’ I sing it coming down Broadway.”
Break out the cheeseburgers: Jimmy Buffett’s come to Broadway, and business is good.
The 71-year-old entrepreneur saw his long-gestating musical, Escape To Margaritaville, begin previews at the Marquis Theatre this weekend. It grossed nearly $400,000 off just two performances – not bad for a professed beach bum.
It’s got room to grow, though. Taking into account higher-than- average weekend prices, the show is primed to gross over $1 million next week, but not hit its listed potential. Word-of- mouth still needs to spread.
Jukebox musicals, even with a built-in fanbase like Buffett’s, are not that much safer than original properties on Broadway. Some are megahits like Jersey Boys or Beautiful, but plenty fail to turn a profit, including the Marquis’s last tenant, Gloria Estefan’s On Your Feet!.
But Buffett is not one to let a good business opportunity sink – he is, after all, worth about $550 million (a Forbes assessment backed up by recent, quietly savage profile in the New York Times). And according to one of his producers, the theater bar is already setting records for intermission drink sales. Wasting away, indeed.
From Tracy Smith: “You might say the newest musical on Broadway feels like an old friend. This is Jimmy Buffett’s “Escape to Margaritaville.”
You won’t see Jimmy on stage, but every song is his. Feel free to sing along!
Smith said, “Broadway is a big gamble. You don’t have to do this; you’re rather comfortable, I would say. Why stick your neck out?”
“‘Cause for me it’s the challenge of doing it,” Buffett replied. “I’ve always wanted to do it. You know, one of my favorite songs was always The Drifters — They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. I sing it every time I walk down here to work.
“And I think about my mother and when she would drag me to musicals, you know, when I was a kid. It’s more about for her. I wish she was here to see this, but she’s the one that set me on this path. So, I figure I gotta do it!”
This is a jukebox musical: Of the 27 songs in the show, only two are actually new. The rest, like “License to Chill,” are proven crowd-pleasers.
“Most of the songs people have heard,” Buffett said. “It’s not like we’re waiting to see if they’re good or not. We’re kind of OK, right? We don’t want to go in there and do what they don’t know!”
Smith asked, “Do you think there would be a Jimmy Buffett if there wasn’t a New Orleans?”
“That’s a very interesting question. I don’t think there ever would have been. I could have gotten a job going South, probably would have had a bar in the British Virgin Islands and singing there,” he replied. “But those years being here really were formative years for me. And it made me a better professional player, so that I thought I could make that leap and all of that. This was my training ground for all of that.”
For Buffett, a married father of three, it’s been a long voyage, and not always an easy one.
When asked what was the biggest storm he’s weathered, he replied, “Wow. There was a point — I think it’s a year or two-year period — where I lost my mom, my dad, Ed Bradley, one of my best friends. But I have to think that, what would they want me to do? And all I can think of is continue doing what I’m doing.”