Jimmy Buffett’s “Escape to Margaritaville” Brings Summer Vibes to DPAC Stage!

Company of the Nation Tour, Escape to Margaritaville – photo by Matthew Murphy

Winter may be around the corner but Jimmy Buffett fans will find plenty summer vibes to enjoy when they see “Escape to Margaritaville” – the 2017 musical now running at the Durham Performing Arts Center through this Sunday. This musical is not a biopic about Buffett, instead it’s more of a rom-com set-up to deliver a healthy dose of all your favorite Buffett songs set to a storyline inspired by his music.

The main story centers around carefree singer-songwriter, Tully Mars (Chris Clark) working as the resident musical entertainment in the Tiki bar at the “it looked better online” Margaritaville Resort on an unnamed Caribbean island. His laidback life consists of singing his songs and romancing one female tourist after another during their brief visits to the island, and happily saying goodbye to each woman after her short stay has come to an end. His side-kick is Brick (Peter Michael Jordan), the bartender who proves to be a loveable character but not nearly as smooth with the ladies as Tully.

Sarah Hinrichsen as Rachel and Chris Clark as Tully, Escape to Margaritaville – photo by Matthew Murphy

Two women on a bachelorette getaway from Cincinnati, Rachel (played by Sarah Hinrichsen), an all too serious environmental scientist, and her friend Tammy (Emily Qualmann) who is just days away from an ill-advised marriage to marrying a real jerk arrive on the island and end up flirting with Tully and Brick and that’s where the sparks begin to fly. But is it really meant to be or is it just another short lived vacation island romance?

Although all of the actors did a phenomenal job in this production, the two that stood out the most were Qualmann, who played Tammy, and Jordan, who played Brick. Although they both had only supporting roles, their performances were the ones that really stole the show form me, they had the most chemistry on stage and I found myself more invested in their story than those of the leads.

Company of the Nation Tour, Escape to Margaritaville – photo by Matthew Murphy

For all the clichés, there are some truly funny moments including a tap number involving the ghosts of dead insurance agents. In the end, what really makes this show work is the excellent choreography and dancing by the ensemble cast and the fact that the story doesn’t take itself too seriously. Escape to Margaretville provides a fun laid-back island themed evening embodying the Jimmy Buffett Lifestyle depicted in his music.  

Escape to Margaritaville is playing now through Sunday, November 14th at DPAC. For tickets visit: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/tootsie

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BB’s Crispy Chicken Raleigh Location Opens Saturday!

Get ready Raleigh! Ashley Christensen’s log awaited BB’s Crispy Chicken opens this Saturday, October 30th at 11am. This fast-casual style restaurant features crispy chicken breast sandwiches, salads and wraps along with fanastic sides like sea-salt brined french fries, pickled cabbage slaw, cheese curds and your choice of 13 homemade sauces.

The pricepoint for the sandwiches ranges between $6.50 to $8.99. They will also have a limited adult beverage menu (starting in a few weeks) and have a selection of desserts and milk shakes including the current seasonal offering of a pumpkin mapel shake!

The Raleigh location is located on Wake Forest Road in the “Midtown East” shopping center in front of the Raleigh Wegmans. But don’t worry, there are also plans to open locations in Durham and Cary by end of spring 2022.

I had a chance to get a sneak peek at the Raleigh location and menu this week during their media preview and everything was delicious. Honestly it was the best chicken sandwich I have ever had. I think this new venture by AC will be a huge hit!

The Raleigh location opens this Saturday, October 30th at 11am and will be open seven days a week 11am to 9pm. To learn more about BB’s and keep tabs on additiona locations planned in the future follow them on instagram at @bbs.crispychicken.

BB’s Crsipy Chicken
2920 Sherman Oak Place – Unti 140
Raleigh, NC 27609

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Oakwood Halloween House ~ 2021 Edition

Yesterday I took a quick walk on my lunch break for my annual visit to the Historic Oakwood Nieghborhood to see the scariest House in Raleigh. There are lots of spooky decorations setup and ready to get you in the Halloween mood just in time for the weekend. The ghostly decorations are a local favorite and top destiantion for selfie seekers this time of year so you can expect it to be busy.

The Oakwood Halloween House is located at 504 Oakwood Avenue in Downtown Raleigh. I recommend swinging by Friday or Saturday to beat the bigger crowds expected Halloween night. Hope you have a happy and safe Halloween!

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“Tootsie” Now Playing at DPAC!

The national touring production of Tootsie that opened at DPAC this past Tuesday night is a fun theatrical adaptation of the 1982 film. While the national views on gender stereotypes have certainly changed quite a bit since the early 8o’s, this updated production and more modern characters reflects these more current views.

The overall story revolves around Michael Dorsey (played by Drew Becker), a talented but somewhat pompous Broadway actor that finds himself blacklisted after being labeled as difficult on set. Out of work and struggling to find a new gig, in his desperation he decides to audition for a new play as a woman by transforming into “Dorothy Michael’s”.  While this plan is initially successful, the ruse leads to a comedy of errors and misunderstandings that although funny at times, also leads to self-reflection. This is a show is a comedy for sure, but it does not shy away from the more serious and timely issues like what it means to be a woman in show business and how to be a better man.

Drew Becker is perfectly cast as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels. As a man his character comes off as a high-maintenance jerk while still being likeable. And when he transforms into playing a woman he is the person in the room everyone, man or woman wants to be friends with.  

Ashley Alexandra is equally wonderful playing actress Julie Nichols in the play within the play. Her character exudes both strength and vulnerability. Her excellent singing and connection with the audience almost steals every scene she is in.

Supporting characters played by Jared David Michael Grant and Payton Reilly are true gems on stage in this production. Jared is terrific as Jeff Slater, Michael’s best friend and roommate who imparts inconvenient wisdom at every turn and scores some of the show’s best laughs, sometimes by saying absolutely nothing.

Payton, who plays Michael’s needy ex-girlfriend, Sandy Lester is loveable in her despair as an equally struggling actress who loses out on a plumb role to Michael’s “Dorothy”. Payton’s rendition of “What’s Gonna Happen,” which is repeated in increasingly shorter versions throughout the show is a fantastic and catchy song about how everything in her life goes wrong.

While Tootsie is indeed a comedy, the show does have its more serious moments near its conclusion once Michael starts looking at the world through Dorothy’s eyes and sees the error of his ways and the pain he has caused. And with that recognition comes understanding.

I found Tootsie to be a wonderfully funny production put on by a stellar cast. Don’t miss your chance to see it while it’s in town through this weekend!

Tootsie is playing now through Sunday, October 24th at DPAC. For tickets visit: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/tootsie

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“The Band’s Visit” Relaunches its North American Tour at DPAC!

The Company of “The Band’s Visit” (photo by Matthew Murphy)

This past Tuesday night the stage at DPAC saw the return of its Broadways Series after a pause of almost 570 days. The night also marked the triumphant relaunch of the national touring production of The Band’s Visit. It was wonderful to be back at DPAC and take in a show again and I can’t think of a more enjoyable show to kick off this latest season of musicals.

The Band’s Visit offers something quite different from most other Broadway musicals. It is just 100 minutes long with no intermission and is more intimate and conversational than most shows. Yes, it has its share of beautiful music and songs drawn from klezmer and Arabic classical traditions, but it isn’t a foot stomping extravaganza – and yet it is still so beautiful in its quiet and understated presentation.

Janet Dacal & Sasson Gabay (photo by Evan Zimmerman)

I’m not surprised at all that this amazing show won the Tony Award for best musical and 2019 Grammy for best musical theater album with its moving songs by David Yzbek and exquisite script by Itamar Moses. The show opens with the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arriving at an Israeli airport led by their straight-backed conductor, Tewfiq. Sasson Gabay is wonderful in this role and portrays the charactor with a dignity and stiffness of someone carrying the burden of a private grief just below their storng exterior. Tewfig and the band board a bus to travel to an engagement at the Arab Cultural Center in the city of Petah Tikva.

However, due to the language barrier and inevitable confusion at the ticket counter, they wind up instead in the small dessert town Bet Hatikva where they stick out like sore thumbs resembling members of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in their powder-blue uniforms.

The show the centers around detoured bands single night in the bleak town where the locals are friendly, but burdened by their isolation and perceived unimportance. Tewfig and his band of musicians find refuge at a local café where frustrated shop owner Dina, played by Janet Dacal, and the locals, in a mixture of pity and curiosity, feed the musicians and open their homes for the night, before they leave for their correct destination in the morning.

The Company of “The Band’s Visit” (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The connections between the Egyptian musicians and the Israeli locals are inevitably incomplete, a theme that carries throughout the story – whether its communicating through broken English, the long wait for a phone call that never comes, or tinkering with an unfinished music composition, each character in their own way longs to find resolution to unfinished business. The revolving set adds to this theme, creating a world in which life seems to spin in an endless circle.

Dacal puts on a masterful performance as the frustrated yet witty café owner stuck in a one-horse town with few prospects of getting out. She has made a lot of missteps in life and owns the fact that she is where she is in life through her own doing. Tewfiq and Dina seem like an unlikely romance and ultimately serve as another incomplete connection, yet you can’t help to feel uplifted by the brief time they share together.

The Band’s Visit is a special show and I can see why it is loved by so many. At its core this is a story of reflection and the painful realities of life as we age and make our way through stages of longing, settling, and acceptance. It isn’t flashy or fast, but uses the power of music to inspire and show how even when we find ourselves out of place or out of step in life, we can always find our way back and connect with one another and feel alive again.

The Band’s Visit takes is playing now through Sunday, October 10th at DPAC. For tickets visit: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/the-bands-visit

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