by Mo Brady
Broadway audiences have seen André Ward and Rema Webb onstage time and again (whether they know it or not). These two performers are mainstays of the New York theatrical community - the kind of actors who have originated so many ensemble tracks in so many successful musicals that they never spend much time out of work. Rather, they commute from Broadway show to Broadway show on a seemingly endless rotation due to their incredible talents and reputations.
Remember Mrs. Brown in The Book of Mormon, who enters the Salt Lake City airport dressed as Rafiki from The Lion King? Rema Webb originated that track.
Remember Ja’Keith Gill, the LOL-inducing boy-band agent in Rock of Ages? André Ward originated that track, returning to it multiple times during the show’s six year run.
Seen The Lion King on Broadway in the last ten years? You probably saw Rema Webb in the ensemble, or understudying Nala or Rafiki or Sarabi or Shenzi (all roles she’s played in the show). André and Rema are both the Broadway legends you’ve never heard of.
Escape to Margaritaville offers audiences the opportunity to see these two standout ensemblists in their first principal original cast roles. Rema and André shine as Marley, the proprietor of the Margaritaville Hotel and Bar, and Jamal, the hotel’s bar back/massage therapist (don’t ask). They each act as touchstones for the audience throughout the lighthearted show, bringing laughter and heart to the proceedings.
Humor has rarely been in such good hands on Broadway as when Rema or André take ahold of a laugh line. The production relies on their talents to keep the cotton candy-textured plot afloat - and to great success. Their decades of training as Broadway ensemblists have given each of them a seemingly perfect grasp on how to make audience belly laugh with joy.
I can’t attest to the exact ages of Rema or André, but I can tell you they are no spring chickens. Yet, they both give so much energy to their performances you could mistake them for their 20-something counterparts. In Margaritaville’s second act, we get to see André dance with such specificity and verve, it’s hard to believe he spent the first act of the show hiding this incredible skill set. And for playing a character who falls in love with a 78-year-old, Rema’s Marley is surprisingly youthful.
Rema and André lead the ensemble of Escape to Margaritaville with immense joy. While the show’s smaller roles are played by skilled Broadway veterans (Matt Allen and Jennifer Rias each give standout performances), it is Webb and Ward who guide the audience through the soulful, silly odyssey of Escape to Margaritaville.