What a wackadoodle of a show! Part party, part pop musical, the Walnut Street Theatre’s production of Jimmy Buffett’s hit is an enjoyable evening, but only if you check your theatrical elitism at the door. Speaking of which, as Chekhov famously told us, “If there’s a volcano in Act One, it had better erupt in Act Two.” Or words to that effect.
Directed and choreographed with ridiculous vulgarity (is the pelvic thrust the only move these dancers know?) by Lisa Stevens, the young, energetic cast is decked out in bright colors (costumes by Richard St. Clair) as is some of the audience. People who know all the lyrics and gestures come to the show wearing Hawaiian shirts and paper leis, while the regular Walnut subscribers sit in their stoic elderliness. This duality must be tough on the actors who need us to clap hands and sway.
The plot is your basic, standard issue comedy: two couples undergo various misunderstandings and accidents of fate until they finally get to their happy endings. Along the way, from Cincinnati to a tropical paradise, they sing some songs, including the irresistible “Margaritaville.” There is a lovely low-keyed ballad called “He Went to Paris” that provides musical counterweight and gives the male voices a chance to shine.
The surprise of the evening is the star of the show, Matteo Scammell. An award-winning actor known for his intensity, both physical and emotional, here he plays Tully, the laid-back guitar-strumming denizen of said paradise. And who knew he could sing? His love-interest is the gorgeous but too-serious Rachel (Amanda Robles). The second couple (Kelly J. Mazzella and Zach Kononov) have to overcome her bad boyfriend and his bad body image. They do. There is a third couple: the Old People (Bill Van Horn and Demetria Joyce Bailey) who, with the help of viagra, find their happy ending too.
The sets, designed by Brian Froonjian in primary colors are cleverly portable and wink merrily at us as jungles appear and disappear. The live band below stage keeps the party going.
[Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St] March 28-April 30, 2023; walnutstreettheatre.org