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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Transported to the tropics: Jimmy Buffett-inspired musical will warm Spokane theatergoers

Rachel Lyn Fobbs as Marley, Matthew James Sherrod as Jamal and company in Jimmy Buffett’s “Escape to Margaritaville.” (Matthew Murphy)
Rachel Lyn Fobbs as Marley, Matthew James Sherrod as Jamal and company in Jimmy Buffett’s “Escape to Margaritaville.” (Matthew Murphy)

After this week’s cold snap in Spokane, it might actually be a perfect time to “Escape to Margaritaville.” The Jimmy Buffett-inspired Broadway musical is making a swing through Spokane next week as part of its first national tour.

The show takes Buffett’s breezy, tropical music and weaves it into a story about a group of people hanging around a past-its-prime hotel on a Caribbean island. When two tourists check in, the hotel becomes a center of romance, fun, adventure and friendship.

Certainly, when it’s 40 degrees outside, the idea of heading to a tropical locale – even if the palm trees are fake and the sand imported – has its appeal. And as actor Rachel Lyn Fobbs put it, “Wear your best tropical outfit under your parka!”

Fobbs plays Marley, the owner of the Margaritaville Hotel. She employs a part-time bartender, Brick, and his buddy, Tully, a singer. She looks after J.D., the resident barfly, and helps “her boys,” as she put it, find their dreams.

“She is so much fun,” Fobbs said by phone this week. “She’s a little bit like me, she likes to take care of everybody.” That involves running from a volcano, woven into the show presumably because Buffett released a song and album titled “Volcano” in 1979.

An earlier hit, improbably, has a place in the show, too. A big and wonderful place, Fobbs said. “There’s an amazing number with cheeseburgers,” Fobbs said with a laugh. “How we integrate (“Cheeseburger in Paradise”) is just so fun.”

Fun is certainly the vibe when it comes to Buffett, a singer-songwriter who’s been honing his “island escapism” brand of music since the early 1970s.

Fobbs said the show packs in a lot for the Parrotheads – aka Buffett’s loyal fanbase. In addition to big hits such as “Maragaritaville,” “Come Monday” and “It’s Five o’Clock Somewhere,” the show is sprinkled with Easter eggs – little jokes and song quotes that are sure to make the Parrotheads smile.

For those in the audience who aren’t Buffet fans or familiar with his music beyond what they’ve heard on the radio, the show doesn’t leave them in the cold. “It is a traditional musical,” Fobbs said. “So theater fans will get their dance numbers, they’ll get the lights and the costumes. Everything they love about musical theater, they’ll get.

“They’ll also get singalongs and call-and-response things. There is lots of engagement with people on the stage. As Marley, I consider the audience to also be my guests at the resort, so I try to include everyone throughout the show and make everyone feel the island vibe.”

Fobbs admits she didn’t know much about Buffett before she started the audition process for the show, although she recognized his music. She even had a chance to meet him.

“He was actually at my call-back audition, which was wonderful,” Fobbs said. “He was there, no shoes, feet on the table, having a good time. He actually borrowed one of the actor’s guitars and said, ‘Hey, I’m writing a new song for the show. Can I use this?’ … So that was my first meeting, and he’s exactly like they tell you he’s going to be.”

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