It's probably best to get your tropical drink before you see "Escape to Margaritaville." Margarita eyes will make the show go down a whole lot better.
The Jimmy Buffett musical that's up at the Old Log Theatre about boozing and vacation romance has some legitimate talent associated with it.
Erik Paulson has designed a set that quickly summons the story's many milieus. The production is helmed by director Eric Morris, with colorful costumes by Melanie Wehrmacher, a comically huge beard by wig designer Paul Bigot and a flash of pizazzy choreography by Stephanie Ann Bertumen.
They do their best to find moments of humor and joy. But they are working with music, drawn from Buffett's catalog that appeals to die-hard Parrotheads, but not purpose-built for a theatrical show. The songs come off often as ill-fitting and strange. And the cast's struggle with the material is evident throughout "Margaritaville," which never really rises above its drunk rock vacation vibe.
When is a good time for a drink? Well, anytime, because "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere." Always.
Where will those cocktails deliver you? Well, one number, which includes audience participation, speaks to some libidinal hope: "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw." Romantic, eh.
And one more: How do you feel after all that drinking? "My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don't Love Jesus." That last Buffett number, which was included in the 2017 "Margaritaville" premiere in California, has mercifully been cut from the Old Log version but it's not the only song that needed to be axed.
The hackneyed story, too, lacks narrative propulsion. Set at a rundown hotel owned by Marley (Kia Brown) on a volcanic Caribbean island, it revolves around an inexplicable romance between part-time singer Tully (Ryan Lee) and environmental scientist Rachel (Maureen O'Malley). Tully often beds female tourists but somehow falls for Rachel, who is trying to come up with an alternative energy source in the age of climate change.
Rachel came to the island with best friend Tammy (Amanda Mai), who, in turn, is engaged to Chadd (Max Kile), a jerk who has put her on a daily diet of 8 ounces of carrot juice and 50 sunflower seeds.
There are musicals that combine an extant music catalog with a new story that actually work. Think of the ever-popular "Mamma Mia!" or "Jelly's Last Jam," now up at Theater Latte Da.
You keep waiting for "Margaritaville" to catch a spark and ignite but it never does. The most heat in the show comes from an erupting volcano that figures prominently in the story, threatening the lives of the characters and the action onstage.
One never wants to feel like rooting for a natural disaster anywhere, least of all in a theater. But occasionally it's the only thing that can stop a manmade one.
'Escape to Margaritaville'
When: 1:30 p.m. Thu., 7:30 p.m. Fri. & Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Aug. 27.
Where: Old Log Theatre, 5185 Meadville St., Excelsior.
Tickets: $30-$40. 952-474-5951 or oldlog.com.