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Review: Escape to Margaritaville at Circa 21

Hey! Hi…I just got back from an island “vacay.” Why would I go to a tropical island in August you ask? Well, I just wanted to “disappear, wishin’ I was somewhere other than here.” Yes, I just wanted a “license to chill.” And I found that perfect opportunity right here in Rock Island at Circa 21’s current production of Escape to Margaritaville, the musical comedy built around the music of Jimmy Buffet with book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley and directed by Amy McCleary.

The evening starts off with a dynamite pre-show by the incomparable Bootleggers who put the audience in the tropical island mood with songs like “An Octopus’ Garden,” “ Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and, yes, even “Baby Shark.”

The show’s story revolves around Rachel, a dedicated scientist, who’s combining a tropical pre-nuptial get-away for her besty, Tammy, with her quest to collect volcanic soil to further her research to develop a super potato that will change the world. Tammy meets Brick, whose genuine attraction to her tempts the vulnerable Tammy to reconsider marriage to the boorish groom who awaits her back in Cincinnati; uptight Rachel meets her exact opposite, the island’s Lothario and local entertainer, Tully, and she falls under the spell of both the relaxed island life and the unambitious Tully.

From there this kitschy and quaint tale takes off and weaves its way through Jimmy Buffet standards that advance the plot as deliciously as a – well – a cheeseburger in paradise.

While I hate to be trite, it goes without saying that this show has been wonderfully cast with both amazing vocal and acting talent and while Melissa Campbell and Cameron Nies as Rachel and Tully are the main love interests, Madison Stepnowski and Bobby Becher as Tammy and Brick, and a third couple K. Bernice and Brad Hauksins as Marley and J.D. are equally engaging and Hauskins’ number “He Went to Paris” is the most touching song in the show.

Not to be outdone Scenic Designer Tom Hansen sets just the right mood complete with a working volcano that erupts at the end of the first act and is cleverly kept running throughout the intermission and although it appeared quite smoky, it didn’t seem to be bother anyone, but if you have respiratory issues you should be aware.

Escape to Margaritaville is the perfect absolutely fun escape from oppressive heat, political turmoil and any other nuisance you may have. So…all you Parrotheads out there, if you miss this show it’ll be your own da** - er, darn fault. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s five o’clock somewhere and I need to find my lost shaker of salt.

Escape to Margaritaville continues at Circa ’21 Playhouse 1828 – 3rd Avenue in Rock Island now through September 9th with matinee performances on Wednesdays and evening performances Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

I’m Chris Hicks…break a leg.