Jimmy Buffett's 'Escape to Margaritaville' to Fold on Broadway

Escape to Margaritaville Production Still - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

Since being passed over for Tony nominations in April, the tequila-infused jukebox musical has struggled to build audiences, last week playing to just 56 percent capacity.

It's last call for tequila shots at the Marquis Theatre bar. The Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical Escape to Margaritaville has announced a July 1 closing date, ending its Broadway run after just four months.

Produced by Frank Marshall, Mindy Rich, Anita Waxman and Beth Williams, the romantic comedy, set at a Caribbean island getaway threatened by an erupting volcano, has been a modest earner at the box office since it began previews in February, suggesting that Manhattan is not a high-density Parrothead metropolis. Total grosses to date are $9.7 million.

While some had speculated that the $15 million production might hang on through the summer to attract a tourist crowd more likely to be Buffett fans, the box office in recent weeks indicated that the show was running at a loss, last week slipping to just 33 percent of potential gross.

The musical drew more consistent crowds in pre-Broadway engagements at La Jolla Playhouse, New Orleans' Seanger Theatre, Houston's Hobby Center and Chicago's Oriental Theatre, suggesting that it might fare better on tour. Producers have announced a road company kicking off in October 2019 at Rhode Island's Providence Performing Arts Center.

Built around songs drawn primarily from Buffett's back catalog but also including more recent material, Escape to Margaritaville features a book by Greg Garcia and Mike O'Malley; choreography by Kelly Devine; and direction by Christopher Ashley, who won a Tony last season for the sleeper hit Come From Away.

Despite some love from the critics for guitar-strumming lead Paul Alexander Nolan, who makes an appealing Buffett stand-in, the production came away empty-handed in Tony nominations, which is frequently a sign that an underperforming show's life on Broadway will be terminated. The fact that it hung on for more than a month after nominations were announced suggests producers are using Broadway as a branding platform in the hopes of recouping on the regional circuit.

It's still possible also that the production might secure a performance slot on the Tonys telecast June 10, as other non-nominated shows have in recent years, which could provide a shot in the arm in its final weeks at the Marquis, in addition to serving as an advance promo for the tour.

By the time it closes, Escape to Margaritaville will have played 29 previews and 124 regular performances.