Christopher Ashley and Kelly Devine haven’t been out of each other’s sight in the last year-and-a-half. While successfully shepherding the surprise smash hit musical Come From Away to Broadway, the two were already working on their next big project: Escape to Margaritaville.
“We have an incredible shared vocabulary at this point,” says Ashley, who won a Tony for his direction of Come From Away, of their partnership. The musical, built on the catalog of Jimmy Buffett tunes, opens at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre March 15, 2018, after out-of-town tryouts in La Jolla, New Orleans (October 20–28), Houston (October 31–November 5), and Chicago (November 9–December 2).
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In the show (written by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley), Paul Alexander Nolan stars as part-time barkeep and singer who begins to question his overly relaxed lifestyle when a career-minded tourist visits the island getaway. “Margaritaville is sheer entertainment and fun and a sweet love story,” says Devine. “A two-hour vacation of enjoyment.”
Thematically, it’s quite a departure from the dramatic Come From Away, about thousands of passengers stranded in Newfoundland, Canada, after 38 planes are grounded in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The process has also been a different one: Whereas Come From Away was shaped over the course of six years, Devine and Ashley must work within the confines of the music and lyrics of Buffett’s hits. “You want to capture the right tone of the song while you’re putting a different story behind it, or layering on top of it,” Devine explains. “Getting that right is what’s tricky sometimes.”
That said, Devine is taking advantage of the opportunity to add to the music, building in dance breaks with the help of dance arranger Gary Adler. “It’s a spectacle,” says Ashley. “People are snorkeling, there’s dance explosions and flying…”
“And tap dancing!” adds Devine. “It’s wild.”