Christopher Ashley and Christopher Jahnke on Creating Escape to Margaritaville
My good friend and orchestrator, Christopher Jahnke, has been musically arranging Escape to Margaritaville since the inception of this Buffett musical. Escape to Margaritaville, which is a new musical featuring the songs of beloved singing troubadour and author Jimmy Buffett, will be opening in March 2018 on Broadway for all of you “Parrot Heads”.
Boathouse, one of my new songs which will be featured on my up-coming LP, is about the fun that seems to follow Jahnke and the Boathouse.
The boathouse is where Jahnke has stayed while soaking up the sun in the Florida Keys, where he wrote many of his hit arrangements, such as the one performed at the Oscars in 2015 by Lady Gaga (Sound of Music), through his lengthy career list of award winning orchestrations.
Jimmy Buffett actually flew his seaplane last winter to the keys and taxied it up to the Checca Lodge pier in Islamorada, FL, where Jahnke met him and they walked next door from the Cheeca Lodge to the Boathouse to begin working on the play.
As you can see by the pictures that were promotional pics for our vinyl record released in March 2017 for Over The Horizon and Meant To Be, Denny Laine and I also have a little history at the Boathouse with Jahnke.
When Tony Award–winning director Christopher Ashley (who is currently nominated for a Tony for his staging of sleeper success “Come From Away,”) signed on to the helm of Escape to Margaritaville, Ashley was not yet a full-fledged Parrot Head. The term Parrot head applies to the most devout followers of Buffett’s organic, Caribbean-flavored pop music.
Ashley and Jahnke, both long time Buffett enthusiasts, said they probably knew about 40 of his songs, but now it’s more like 400.”
Previews begin at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre February 16, and open March 15.
Buffett also stated about the open of the play, “To forge this great community of Parrott Heads and mix it with Broadway is very exciting.”
Further insights have been provided by Buffett himself, who, despite his relentless road schedule, has consistently found time to consult with Ashley and book writers Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley. Buffett occasionally joins cast members onstage during curtain call, and performs with them.
When Ashley or Jahnke run a series of options past Buffett, “Buffett’s answers are always… ‘Let’s try it.’ … “Guys like Jahnke who have been working on the orchestration, have been really open to us re-envisioning the songs to use them in a theatrical context”, says Buffett.
About the Play
Escape to Margaritaville is set on your typical island, a vacation destination where tourists and locals meet and mix. The plot involves Tully, played by Paul Alexander Nolan (Bright Star, Once), a beach bum who lives from day to day. That is, until he meets Rachel, played by Alison Luff (Matilda The Musical, Les Misérables), a scientist who really wants to make the world a better place. There’s another couple, and both relationships form the first act’s final number, which is the title song, probably Buffett’s most famous tune.
“That was a really satisfying moment, figuring out how to use ‘Margaritaville,’” People think of Margaritaville as a party song, but if you really listen to the lyrics, it’s a song about loss. In the show, there are two relationships that have fallen apart. The song starts off very still, with the lead character singing solo and playing acoustic guitar. Then it builds and builds, until near the end you see a new round of tourists coming in, and you sense the hollowness at the center as they start to pile in and have a good time.
The idea that weaves through Escape to Margaritaville is that, despite all the difficulties life will present to us, it is our job to find joy and love now! Grab joy by the horns. It’s a great story to be telling in this exact moment, when so many people are fighting and pointing at the differences between us.
Song – writer and band member of the Coral reefers Mac McAnally:
Orchestrator – YouTube