NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A new musical wraps a love story around the songs of Jimmy Buffett, an unlikely love affair between a bartender on a mythical Caribbean island paradise and a career-driven tourist.
The Tony Award winning director, Christopher Ashley, describes "Escape to Margaritaville" as a story of, "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and spoiler alert, boy gets girl again."
While the story is currently in production in San Diego, New Orleans will be one of just three other cities to see the show it makes its Broadway premiere next March.
Producers are targeting both lovers of the stage and "parrotheads," the army of devoted Jimmy Buffett fans.
Ashley said the musical that the audience sees in New Orleans will not be exactly the same production that debuts on Broadway, as producers work out the kinks in the show and tweak various parts of the story.
"Escape to Margaritaville" hits the stage in New Orleans from October 20-28. Tickets are now on sale.
I sat down with Buffett and members of the creative team, including writers Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley. Here is an excerpt of the interview:
Jimmy Buffett: "My mother would think this was pretty cool because she was the one that used to always take me to musicals when they'd come through. We'd come over here from Mobile to see shows."
John Snell: "I heard you were pretty fired up about being in New Orleans as one of the premiere cities."
Buffett: "I was pretty fired up that we were getting to do it. And then, when that fantasy became reality and we were doing it, then we were starting to get serious about where we were going to play. And I always talked to David about coming back and when it was done I want to do a show because I performed here a lot too over the years. When it happened it was like wow. That's pretty cool."
John Snell: "Is this Tully character slightly based on a slice of your life?"
Buffett: "They wrote it, I don't know (laughing)."
John Snell: "I'll let you guys handle that then, or at least an image of what he might have done."
Greg Garcia (writer): "He definitely embodies the Jimmy Buffet spirit, that's for sure. Certainly, it isn't an autobiographical story. It's a story we came up with, but he definitely has some similar characteristics I think."
John Snell: "I know nothing about Broadway Theater. My impression of Rodgers and Hammerstein is they would get a story, then write songs around it. But you had songs that you are writing a script around. How challenging is that?"
Mike O'Malley (writer): "We are and we aren't. One of the things Jimmy does so well that he tells great stories in his short stories. This is a guy who's a New York Times number one best seller on the non-fiction list and on the fiction list. And then, a Grammy Award winning song writer. So many of his songs have been stories. So, when you start to begin to expand the world of his songs in writing a whole Broadway musical, you have to look at the things, really the characters, the yearning, the striving, the trying to find a sense of self. That's where you start from. You're writing a Broadway musical about that. How do make your life mean something? How do you find love? How, in an absurd world, where there's a lot of pain and there's a lot of unhappiness, do you find happiness in the moment, in the now? So, you start with the idea, I think, more so than anything else, the idea, what is present in his songs. That's a universal thing, a universal thing about trying to find meaning, friendship and family and where you fit in. And so that's where we started to write the musical from."
John Snell: "How much, when you sit down to go write a song, how much of it is storytelling in your mind?"
Jimmy Buffett: "It's all storytelling and that's the thing of it for me, all these songs, at least 90 percent of them are based on people that I met and most times in the places that I chose to hang out and look at characters that were interesting enough to study for songs. They weren't 4H clubs. It was some pretty seeding characters in some pretty seeding places, but everyone has a story. You can only tell so much in 6 minutes. So, that's what I think about writing a song, you're compressing a lot of information into a structure of a song where you want to get a chorus, a hook and a few verses. What I love about what's happened here is these songs were written completely for a total other reason, which was to put on a album and to go on tour and to hopefully find my own audience and found another audience because of the way these guys interpreted it. And the unique thing for me is now having seen quite a few shows and having watching that it works. When these words actually go into the mouths of the characters of these shows as well as, probably better than, the people I wrote them about."