Buffett chats about PPAC’s ‘Escape to Margaritaville’

Buffett chats about PPAC’s ‘Escape to Margaritaville’

Jimmy Buffett talks with the press about the new musical “Escape to Margaritaville” running through Oct. 5 at the Providence Performing Arts Center.

PROVIDENCE – Jimmy Buffett’s life is all about joie de vivre: “You need a little bit of fun in life.”

Buffett was in town recently to promote his new musical, “Escape to Margaritaville,” which launches its national tour from the Providence Performing Arts Center. A group of print reporters sat in a semi-circle around Buffett in PPAC’s lobby for what was supposed to be a 10-minute interview.

Someone mentioned that according to Buffett’s website, today was National Relaxation Day. “Well, why am I working on National Relaxation Day?” he asked. “Every day’s a something day. Two weeks ago, it was National Margarita Day. I celebrated that well.”

The show stitches together some of Buffett’s classics, a few new tunes and a story about a bartender, a tourist and a volcano on a Caribbean island.

For three decades or more, Buffett’s music has been a staple on country music stations, and his concerts have become all-day events starting with “pre-game” activities in the parking lots. And yes, Buffett does on occasion cruise the parking lots to see what’s going on. “All you have to do is get a costume,” he said.

He says his concerts are part of the Mardi Gras culture in which he was raised. “I grew up on the Gulf Coast. That’s where it all started. And that’s the basis of ‘Margaritaville.’”

When you think Jimmy Buffett, you don’t necessarily think musical theater. But he’s got a long-standing appreciation for it, going back to when his mother worked in community theater in Mobile, Ala. He smiled when he first sat down and pointed at a huge poster for “South Pacific.”

“My mother was Bloody Mary in that show,” he said. “I was supposed to be one of the kids, but I wanted to play baseball.” So, he wasn’t in the show. But he did go to see a lot of shows when they came through Mobile. “That’s why it’s such a thrill to come to a beautiful theater like this and see my show on the marquee,” he said.

Back in 1994, Buffett collaborated with Herman Wouk on a musical version of Wouk’s 1965 novel, “Don’t Stop the Carnival.” It had a limited run in Miami before closing. “But people who saw that show have now invested in ‘Margaritaville,’” he said.

He remembers when a member of the Nederlander family, one of the most recognized names in New York theater, approached him about doing a one-man show on Broadway. “He said I’d do eight shows a week, and I thought that would be great. Then I figured out I made way more doing just one concert. I said, if I do eight shows a week on Broadway, I’ll go broke. But it taught me the economics of the business,” he said.

“Escape to Margaritaville” had a short run on Broadway before the national tour was put together, and Buffett’s hoping that the national tour will be a success.

One final question before we go. How did he come to work on “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere” with Alan Jackson? “Alan called me, told me about the song, and I said, sure, I’ll do it, sounds like fun,” he said. “So, he sent me the track, I sang for maybe 20 minutes in my studio in Key West and sent it back to him. And now the song is so identified with him, and with me, so thank you, Alan Jackson.”

Jimmy Buffett’s “Escape to Margaritaville” runs through Oct. 5 at the Providence Performing Arts Center. For tickets and information, call the box office at 401-421-2787, or visit www.ppacri.org .