The consensus: the beach-loving musical keeps things pretty breezy.
Credit: Jennifer Sharp—Getty Images/iStockphoto

When Jimmy Buffet and company announced that Escape to Margaritaville—the musical based on the musician’s hit song from the ‘70s—was coming to Broadway, no one was expecting a Tony award-winning masterpiece. Projects like these are often intended to appeal to their existing fan base rather than snag new followers. And so, we probably shouldn’t be too surprised that the play received mixed reviews after its premiere last night at the Marquis Theatre.

“If ever there were a time to be drunk in the theater, this is it,” the New York Times wrote in its review’s opening salvo, before later adding, “the bad news is that you still have to see the show.” Regardless, the newspaper’s highbrow approach makes the review enjoyable on its own. Where else will you get an assessment like this: “Mr. Buffet’s denatured country-calypso ditties and horndog smarm seem awfully lowbrow, even in a Broadway environment debased for decades by singing cats and candlesticks,” wrote critic Jesse Green. “It’s quite a comedown in the sing-to-me-of-romance department from ‘Shall We Dance?’ to ‘Why Don’t We Get Drunk (and Screw).”

Bloomberg was equally unkind in its take, if not quite as esoteric about it. “Even a Shaker of Salt Can’t Save This One,” the article’s title proclaims, with Chris Rovzar later suggesting that the whole thing is “too watered-down to be much fun.” However, the review also manages to squeeze in one amazing spoiler: At some point in the second act, the crowd is bombarded with beach balls. That might be a first.

But not all feedback was negative. That consummate Hollywood publication Variety wrote that the “laid-back Jimmy Buffett musical makes a good-natured case for feeling his island music and living his beach-bum lifestyle.” Marilyn Stasio later laments, “However well packaged, the show just isn’t a good fit for New York.”

And in fact, of the 19 reviews currently found by Playbill, the overall consensus is pretty mixed, from “fun for Buffett fans and the masses” to something just for the “diehard” fans.

But let’s be honest: Wherever you stand, you already know how you feel about a Margaritaville musical. And if you don’t, then a Margaritaville musical might not be up your alley.