On October 1st, 2019, I had the privilege to interview Shelly Lynn Walsh, Peter Michael Jordan, Rachel Lyn Fobbs, and Matthew James Sherrod, who were all members of the main cast of Escape to Margaritaville. I would like to give tremendous thanks to the four cast members, the show’s staff, and the communications department at the PPAC for helping to put all of this together. Tickets for Escape to Margaritaville are still on sale now along with a discounted price for students called the student/senior rush and the show will be running through at the PPAC from September 29th, 2019 to October 5th, 2019. The theater is located at 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, Rhode Island and the phone to the box office is (401) 421-2787. During the interview, the cast members provide a terrific description of the show. The first interview is with Fobbs and Sherrod and the second is with Walsh and Jordan.
Carvalho: So, you guys are very young people. Have you known Jimmy Buffet and known his music? Have you always listened to him or is this a fresh new thing that you guys are doing?
Sherrod: Well, so, there are a couple of songs that are kind of staples like Margaritaville, Five O’clock Somewhere. Things like that that I’ve heard, and I knew going in, but definitely, this show has opened my eyes and ears to a lot of his catalog and his music is amazing. It varies in so many different styles and it’s really incredible. So, I feel like I’ve become a new major fan.
Fobbs: So beautiful, so heartfelt, so zany in some ways, and I think that the show reflects the things you feel when you listen to Jimmy Buffet’s music. There are a lot of songs that I actually didn’t know were his. We played them in the show, and I was like “I’ve heard that, I definitely heard that! Oh wow!” So, it’s been nice to discover things while being on the show, definitely.
Carvalho: Tell us a bit about the show and who you play?
Sherrod: So, I play Jamal, and he works on the island and he does whatever you need him to do. Need a massage? He’ll give you a massage. You need something fixed? He’ll fix it. You need a drink? He’ll get it for you. If you just need to be told you look nice in that bathing suit, he’ll do that for you too. He’s really fun and he kind of gets to mingle with everyone and be silly and dance, and sing, and play the ukulele, which is fun, I’ve never done that before. So, the show, it’s like a really fun comedy about people coming on vacation, they’re leaving their cares and their troubles and we all have a lot of stress, and they’re leaving that behind and they’re looking for a good time, but they find love, and they find strength, and they find wisdom, and I think that’s what the show’s about. It’s about saying ‘yes’ to life and ‘yes’ to love, and not taking things so seriously. Island time! (Laughs)
Fobbs: I play Marley, and I am the owner of the resort. Jamal is my best worst employee. I have a lot of worst employees. I have a great time because I am very motherly and I take care of my employees the same way I would take care of my guests, and the audience, during this show, are my tourist guests because they are coming in just to visit us and I want to make sure they have a great time.
Carvalho: Doing this show, what kind of impact does it have on you guys and your lives being a part of the show?
Sherrod: Well, the show definitely made me not be so high strung (laughs). I kind of came into this the way I come into a lot of other shows with just a lot of anxiety and making sure I just have to get this and get that. This team has been so loving. This show is fun, this show is a breeze, come on, we’re going to have fun with it and we’re going to learn at the same time. So, I think it’s made me relaxed and just enjoy moments more and not just be so “Okay, so what’s the next thing I have to do.” I’ve learned how to kind of just chill, and I think that’s what the show brings to the audience as well. They’re going to be like “Okay, we’re going to just have some fun, life is good.”
Fobbs: Right, sharing the moment with the audience because most of them know this music, a lot of who don’t come in and they’re experiencing it for the first time. So, to share those moments with the audience, it’s really important to be in the moment and just be like, “Okay, yes I know my part, but what we’re saying right now is something that everyone can relate to.”
Carvalho: I know this is your (Fobbs) first national tour, but there wasn’t a notice if you (Sherrod) have done a national tour before. Is this your first one as well?
Sherrod: This is my first national tour as well.
Carvalho: How are you guys adjusting to this national tour and how are you guys going to prepare for going to city to city? What kind of impact is that going to have on you with having to do that for so long?
Sherrod: Well, right now we are so lucky that Providence is our first stop from New York. I was actually born and raised in New York. So, travelling this much is definitely new for me in general. Outside of touring a musical, just travelling period this much is a lot, but it’s been very exciting. I’m just so excited to find all the little cafes and all the little stops to eat that the locals are excited about. I really want to make sure that I enjoy the town in a way that the people who live here would want to do that. I really want people to tell me what the good places to go, I don’t want to just kind of come as a tourist and only go to fancy places. I want to really feel like I’m getting to know the town and try to save money and pack light as well. Those are my two things: save money and pack light. Yea. (Laughs)
Fobbs: I’ve been doing this for a while, so I’ve done a lot of regional theater, so right now, since it’s so early on, it just feels like a regional gig where you go to the one city and you do it. We’re very blessed on this tour to have a lot of long sit downs. So, we’ll be in a city for a week, two weeks, three weeks, some of them. So, I think I’m prepared mentally for what that is, but also eating on tour, packing, I definitely packed too much. Well, I bought so many fun things, they’re so many fun stores here in Providence that my bag is definitely too full now. So, I’ll have to mail some things home.
Carvalho: I would recommend Seven Stars Bakery on Hope Street. Fantastic bakery.
Fobbs: Seven Stars! I went there! It’s so delicious! So good! Oh, my goodness! It’s excellent and it’s cheap!
Sherrod: That’s great for me.
Carvalho: You guys are pretty young and you’re already doing a national tour. What do you guys project to do next after this at such a young age and you’re already doing this?
Fobbs: Oh, you’re so sweet. We look very young.
Sherrod: We feel like the older one because a lot of the dancers are in their twenties and we’re in our thirties. So, we kind of feel like “I need to go soak after this.” We’re kind of like “yea.” So, it’s fun finding that balance between the energy and discovering a new town and going out, but also taking time for ourselves. It’s amazing, it’s our first national tour. So, that is incredible doing that. We really lucked out, our creative team is amazing, our writers wrote for Shameless, created My Name is Earl, Emmy winning, Jimmy Buffet wrote the music, our creative team are these amazing creators who do Broadway shows. So, we’re hoping to just take these things to the next level and make a good impression. I think this is definitely the beginning of a lot of things and we’re hoping to just work hard and let that kind of flourish.
Fobbs: I think for actors, there is no real trajectory for where you’re going to go. I think, for us, getting paid to do what we love is the ultimate goal. So, I’ve been doing that for ten years, and I’m happy with wherever I end up. That’s for sure.
Carvalho: What is it that you would tell just a regular person to come to this show and what makes it unique to bring people to come here and watch the show?
Fobbs: I think that even if you don’t know Jimmy Buffet’s music, this show is not- a lot of people are scared off of musical theater because they see Cats, they see Le Miz, and they’re like “Oh, it’s epic, I don’t understand it.” This is very conversational, it’s zany, it’s heartfelt, all the things you feel when you listen to Jimmy Buffet’s music is what you feel when you watch this. This is just regular people in 2019 having a vacation.
Sherrod: I think that if you come into the show and you are a fan of Jimmy Buffet’s music, you’re going to really enjoy seeing it in this big production numbers, and you’re going to enjoy singing on this scale, and hearing the different voices and we still very much stay true to his style and he was a huge part of creating the show. So, we stay true to him, we made sure it sounds like a concert so it’s a lot of fun. So, if you’re a Jimmy Buffet fan, you won’t be turned off. If you are a fan of theater, you’re going to love the story and love these characters. It’s a good time, it’s a musical comedy. So, I think there is a lot for everyone in this show and no matter wht angle you are coming at it from, you’re going to have a good time and we’re going to make sure. (Laughs)
Carvalho: So, how are you guys getting adjusted to Rhode Island? How is everything?
Walsh: It’s really great! I can’t stop talking about how pretty and adorable this city is so far. We’ve been to a bunch of restaurants; I went to Brown yesterday and walked around a little bit. So, it’s been really nice, I’ve enjoyed it.
Jordan: It’s gorgeous. It’s quintessential, New England town. I love it.
Walsh: It’s like its own little country. It’s really cute, it’s adorable.
Carvalho: Tell us a little bit about the show and who you guys play.
Jordan: Well, the show itself is a two-hour vacation on a tropical island with Jimmy Buffet music. So, it’s just like the optimal situation. That being said, it’s still like a Broadway show, so regular theater goers and Jimmy Buffet fans both come together for these audiences and they’re both satisfied and pleased with what’s going on on stage. I play Brick, and he’s the bartender at Margaritaville Resort, and he is just a kind of goofy character that is best friends with Tully, and wants to please everyone he’s with, and he falls in love with Tammy. He’s just a fun, lovable teddy bear.
Walsh: Yes, exactly. I play Tammy, and my story is different. We’re from Cincinnati, and me and my best friend go on vacation right before I’m getting married, and I happen to be getting married to this absolute worst guy you could imagine. I go to the island and I meet Brick, and to know the ending you’re going to have to come see the show, but it’s kind of watching the journey of how to find yourself and accept that you deserve better than we think sometimes, and I think that’s really cool to see something like that on stage because I think people can relate to it now, especially in this day and age. People just want to escape, and I think feel something for people that remind them of themselves. So, I think people can really relate to the show and it’s characters.
Carvalho: So, doing this show, what kind of impact has it had on you?
Walsh: I’ve just had a lot of fun. I think leaving New York was hard to do but leaving New York and being able to do a show like this on the road for nine months with some of your best friends now and have so much fun has been really rewarding for me. I think it’s only going to get better from here and we get to explore the country and perform.
Jordan: This show is just so fun to do every night, and the audience just keeps you jazzed to do it. So, I just think I couldn’t have been picked for a better musical to do right out of the gate.
Carvalho: You guys are very young people. You’re already doing your first national tour and you (Jordan) just got out of college and you’re going to your first national tour. How does it feel to get all of this going now and what’s next for you guys now that you’re so young and you’re already doing this?
Jordan: Well, at the moment, I’m just trying to keep myself grounded in this show. It’s amazing to be just out of college. Shelly just graduated last year, and I graduated in May, and it’s kind of crazy to think that we’re working actors already. So, it’s amazing. As for future plans, I think we’re trying to just-
Walsh: Yea, we have a good chunk of the tour left. So, we haven’t really thought that far in advance yet. Just trying to live each day and be very grateful for being able to share this story with our audiences and our family and friends. I think that’s probably in our mindset right now. So, in nine months, come back and ask us.
Jordan: I’m sure we’ll have a week left for the tour, and be like “Yea, well, guess it’s back to Starbucks.”
Carvalho: What kind of advice do you have for current college students to be this successful when their twenty-three or twenty-four like you guys are at this point?
Walsh: I think that if I could go back and talk to myself when I was just starting college, I think I would just tell myself to just trust the process and trust that I am enough, and to just try to accept the fact that everybody has a different journey, and you’re journey might be that you’re not going national tour until you’re twenty-eight, or you’re on a national tour when you’re twenty-three like we are. So, everybody’s journey is different and never compare yourself to anybody is the best advice I could have.
Jordan: Can I steal that answer? That’s amazing and exactly what I would say too. It’s truly about trusting yourself and your own artistry and being able to go out there and know that what you’re putting out the world is what you should be doing. Definitely everybody has a different journey.
Walsh: I think it’s so easy to say when you have a job and are successful to say “trust the journey,” but I think it more means that keep your head up and don’t let the haters get you down kind of thing, that kind of situation.
Jordan: You’ll never know it until you’re in it, but that’s basically what we have to say.
Carvalho: What makes this show so unique and why should people come out and go see it?
Walsh: Well, I think there’s a lot of juke box musicals right now on Broadway, and obviously, that’s kind of what this is. It’s a show about Jimmy Buffet’s music, but what I think is so cool about the show is he’s written new songs for the show as well to tell the story, and there’s so many things that are going to be surprising to the audience and they’re going to end up leaving the theater having felt something supposed to just seeing a Jimmy Buffet concert. I think you just leave feeling better and it’s so fun and it’s a Broadway show in your neighborhood which I think is so cool.
Jordan: Yea, and I think for me, the redeeming quality is that it’s Jimmy Buffet music. So, you get the parrot heads, and the crazy fans of Jimmy Buffet, and then you have normal theater goers who want to come see a Broadway show on the road, and both people are happy because it is a laidback vibe of Jimmy Buffet, and wrapped up into a big Broadway production. It’s just fun.