Jimmy Buffett talks about how his laid-back island tunes inspired the musical, which launches its national tour at Providence Performing Arts Center on Sept. 29 and his new album titled “Oceans of Time” that’s due out in the spring.
From the Providence Journal: “Jimmy Buffett’s ‘Escape to Margaritaville’ will have Parrotheads flocking to Providence“
The sun is particularly bright over the Providence Performing Arts Center, which is hosting the launch of the North American tour of “Escape to Margaritaville” on Sept. 29. A buoyant love story based on the music of Jimmy Buffett, the play introduces original songs along with favorites like “Fins,” “Volcano” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” that promotional posters promise will “knock your flip-flops off.”
Clad in a baby-blue striped polo shirt, tan cargo shorts and slip-on sneakers, with a baseball cap on his head, Buffett kicked back in a chair at PPAC and recalled how his mother instilled a love for the performing arts in him when he was growing up in Mobile, Alabama.
“She was part of a local theater group and played Bloody Mary in ‘South Pacific!’” he said. “She would take me to a lot of shows.”
Instead of theater, Buffett’s music career took off — the singer-songwriter has more than 50 albums on his résumé and legions of fans called Parrotheads thronging sold-out concerts worldwide every summer. He has also written several books, making him one of only nine authors to notch the top spot on both The New York Times best-seller lists in fiction and nonfiction. Playwriting, however, seemed more elusive.
″[Broadway theater owner and producer] Jimmy Nederlander Jr. wanted me to do a one-man show on Broadway 30 years ago,” he said. “I also connected with Herman Wouk in the ’90s to create a musical based on his book ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival.’”
The storyteller — who often quipped “long story short” in mid-stride — worked with Wouk on the seven- or eight-year process to stage “Don’t Stop the Carnival.” Along the way, Buffett said, he gleaned valuable skills from his mentor on the road to the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, where the show opened in 1997.
“We were good friends and fellow sailors,” he began, “and I was living in the Caribbean where the book was like the bible and everyone had Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley tapes playing. We knew it would make a great musical.”
He agreed to participate in the creation of “Escape to Margaritaville,” but he had a few conditions. He insisted that it be left to writers who “knew and lived the culture” of a place like Margaritaville. That took three years to find, but he said Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley understood how his songs fit a casual, tropical style.
“I then told them the story must have three elements — someone moving from a cold to a warm climate, a sense of escapism and a love story,” Buffett added, noting that the play focuses on a young man who moves from Maine to the tropics and falls in love. “They’d write, and then I’d do what they called ‘Buffettizing’ and I’d tweak things.”
The play hasn’t been his only project lately. Buffett said he’s preparing for his first album release in 14 years, titled “Oceans of Time.” It’s due out in the spring.
“It never gets old,” he said of creating music. “I’m just a child of the ocean.”