a man standing on a stage with a guitar
DJ Mills performs a Jimmy Buffett tune during a recent dress rehearsal. KELLIE BUTLER FARRELL/Keys Weekly

The musical comedy takes place in a run-down hotel on a small Caribbean island where the drinks flow freely and the classic tunes from the late, great Jimmy Buffett are guaranteed to delight an Upper Keys audience.

Jimmy Buffett’s “Escape to Margaritaville” opens Thursday, April 18 at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center in Key Largo. The cast is thrilled to take the stage for the first of seven performances.

“Overall we’re all really excited for the show to be seen by everyone,” said Jay Ware. “It’s going to be amazing.” Ware landed the lead role of the bartender in this latest Key Players production. The 25-year-old is a lifeguard and recreation coordinator at Founders Park in Islamorada. This is his first Key Players show; the last time he was in a play, he was in middle school in Springfield, Illinois. Not only does he sing and act, he also had to learn how to tap dance for a scene. 

“There are some of us who have never tap danced before or never danced before, so it was certainly an interesting experience,” Ware said.

It was another Key Players newcomer who taught the cast how to tap dance and it wasn’t always easy. 

“You’ve got to have a lot of patience because there’s a lot of tapping going on and the noises can get to you,” joked show choreographer Kamari Samuels.

The 18-year-old Samuels is from Valdosta, Georgia, where he has acted and choreographed several community theater productions. “Escape to Margaritaville” director, Brock Mills, also from Valdosta originally, reached out to his friend Samuels for help with this show. 

Samuels came down in February and decided to stay in the Keys and take part in the show. He plays Jamal, the busboy.

“Little secret: I didn’t know who Jimmy Buffett was until we started doing ‘Margaritaville,’” said Samuels. “Then I listened to his music and I was like, I can get jiggy to this,” said Samuels with a laugh. 

The musical features iconic Buffett songs like “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Margaritaville,” among others.

Buffett passed away last year. Show producer Jonelle Kop knew the Key Players needed to bring this show to the community.

“That’s exactly why we chose it, when we chose it. We were going to do a different show and we changed it at the last minute so we could do this ode to Jimmy Buffett,” Kop said.

Jimmy Buffett’s “Escape to Margaritaville” runs April 18-20 and April 25-28. Tickets can be bought online or at the door for $23. Adult tickets can be purchased in advance for $20 at Key Largo Chocolates at MM 100, Shear Paradise at MM 99 and the PostNet Store in Islamorada at MM 88. High school and younger student tickets can be purchased at the door for $10. More information is at

Kellie Butler Farrell
Kellie Butler Farrell is a journalist who calls Islamorada home. Kellie spent two decades in television news and also taught journalism at Barry University in Miami and Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She loves being outside, whether spending time on the water or zipping down the Old Highway on her electric bike, Kellie is always soaking up the island lifestyle. Kellie and her husband own an electric bike rental company, Keys Ebikes.