by Justin Keats
It’s never easy to have a show close, whether it’s a regional gig, a contract at an amusement park, or the end of a Radio City season, there are always the post-show blues that come with it. Closing a Broadway show, however, comes with a heavier heart. Most Broadway shows are usually open-ended contracts that you hope will last years and keep you here in NYC and with your community, so when you get your closing notice there’s a sense of the world dropping out from underneath you. For Escape to Margaritaville, I didn’t just feel the fall out because of losing a job, but mainly because I won't get to play and work with these crazy Margaritaville natives everyday.
I often hear the party line, “My cast is so great and we love each other," but this is an unreal group of people. We are a family. Some of us have been together now for over a year. We are involved in each other’s lives. We are beyond supportive of each other. Every one of us is uniquely talented and special and continues to make coming to work every day not work at all but more like coming home to play for a couple hours. And it’s not just the cast, but the crew, the creatives, and the producers. I’ve never experienced such a bond in a cast. I have witnessed it time and again through the three rehearsal processes we went through all of us encouraging each other to play and find new moments. To take a risk and be there to make you laugh when it fails miserably or cheer you on when you nail it. I really love this group of humans.
I can’t help but feel a sense of hopelessness. I can’t help but wonder, “Where did we go wrong?” Or, “Was there something more we could have done?” But that’s not how theater works. But I know it’s a special group when people from our marketing and social media teams are sad because they have loved working with us. I also think it says something beautiful about a cast and a show when after we got our closing notice that the ushers of the theater have stopped me to tell me that they are going to miss us and that they are confused as to why we are closing. I mean these are the people who see it more than anyone and they aren’t sick of us yet.
We as a cast have been involved in every opportunity that we were offered. We participated in Easter Bonnet Competition and more than ten people were involved with Broadway Bares. We have joined together with Come From Away and made a softball team. I don’t know of a cast so new that is already so involved in the community. We all want to be here and now we don’t get to be and I am sad that our group will of course dissipate. But the cool thing about this, unlike the cast of my first Broadway show, is that we are all New Yorkers. I can’t wait to see where everyone ends up next.
I can’t wait to support each other and see shows and cabarets and go to goodbye parties for when people book tours. I can’t wait to watch the trajectory of their careers. I’m such a fan of all of them. It’s truly a cast of stars lead by the music a genuinely goodhearted man, Jimmy Buffet. I didn’t know his music well before I went to La Jolla, in fact I had no idea why we were singing about cheeseburgers, but he is such a positive light and wanted this show to be the escape humanity needs right now from these crazy times and maybe that’s why we are all so great to each other. We fell into the island vibes. We all relaxed and just wanted to have a great time making people happy and smile.
I have a single cue every night at the end of the show in the back of the house and I love watching the audience sing and dance in their seats, or sometimes aisles, and just see them relax and shed the hard shell New York forces us to wear. We really have created something special here. I will miss our little piece of paradise in the big city. And although I am of course nervous about what is next for me, I will gladly take a tip from the big man himself and breath in, breath out, and move on to new adventures.