Final Bow: Justin Mortelliti and Julius Anthony Rubio, the Gay Couple from Escape to Margaritaville
The Jimmy Buffett musical has the most fully realized ensemble characters on Broadway.
Escape to Margaritaville is the story of Tammy (Lisa Howard) and Rachel (Alison Luff), two Cincinnatians who take a bachelorette trip to an island resort right before Tammy is set to marry a disappointing schlub. As we watch their encounters with handsome resort crooner, Tully (Paul Alexander Nolan), and bartender Brick (Eric Petersen), we also delight in seeing the ensemble hang out at the bar. Liberated from the stress of work, these tourists drink and dance with strangers who quickly become new friends. Justin Mortelliti and Julius Anthony Rubio play two vacationers experiencing a Margaritaville love connection.
This is Rubio's fourth Broadway musical, while Mortelliti (who was recently featured in a TheaterMania First Dates video) is making his Broadway debut. As they prepare to take their final bow in Escape to Margaritaville (closing July 1), they spoke about the unique creation of the show, the representation of gay people onstage, and their favorite vacation drink. Surprise: It's not a margarita!
What's your favorite line from this show?
Julius Anthony Rubio: When we all scream "Oh sh*t" right at the end of Act 1.
It's live theater. Technical difficulties happen. What was the worst technical difficulty on this show, and how did you deal with it?
Julius: The scrim only came up half way during the opening number. Literally, you just saw torsos and legs, like we were in 42nd Street. And then the sound wasn't working, so they paused the show.
Justin Mortelliti: And Jimmy happened to be there, so he climbed on the stage and started handing out free shots.
Who was the coolest person who came to the show?
Julius: I'm from Miami, so I'm going to have to say Pitbull.
Justin: Whoopi Goldberg came last week. She sent us all pies the next day. That was very sweet.
Did you receive any interesting gifts at the stage door?
Justin: A fan made little avatars of every single cast member using pieces of plastic she ironed together. She got our clothes and hair perfect. It was amazing.
Your characters aren't given names in the program, but did you make them up anyway?
Justin: My name is Blake.
Julius: I'm Dino.
How did Blake and Dino end up at Margaritaville?
Justin: Blake came by himself. The trip was a gift from his father, because he graduated from massage therapy school. He's also a yoga instructor.
Julius: I came to the island with my ex-girlfriend from college. We're still best friends. She just broke up with her boyfriend, and I just broke up with my boyfriend. And she was like, "Let's just go to Margaritaville. I know someone who works there." So we go, and I end up meeting Blake.
Justin: The cool thing about this is that it all started on the first day of rehearsal. Our choreographer, Kelly Devine, paired up everyone in the cast, saying, "You two are husband and wife. You guys are friends." She turned to us and said, "You two are going to meet up and have a romance by the end of the week."
So how do they meet?
Julius: Dino is really flirty, so there's a moment in "Fins" when I flirt with Tammy and then I run into Blake during a pass off. And that's how it starts…
Justin: …In the middle of the dance. Kelly wanted us to find each other in the scene after the number. One day in rehearsal he walked across the bar to say hello and we shook hands. We ended up keeping that for the show.
I noticed that everyone else leaves the island, but you guys stay for a second week. Is it because you can't bear to leave each other?
Julius: I think the reason we stay is because he's in a really nice cabana, so when I see it I'm like, "Ohhhh…he has money." We're in the other cabana so we end up staying together for an extra week. You know, it's like Fire Island.
What do you think it means that same-sex couples are being portrayed on the Broadway stage not necessarily as the subject of the show, but as a given of life in 2018?
Julius: It shows that we're just coexisting, the way life should be. It's an opportunity to be very realistic about what a gay couple looks like and not have any extra attention being drawn to them, or to make them the butt of jokes. When you watch our show, they're just boys. They're people living in the same space.
Justin: I always think about the younger kids that come to see our show, and how there might be a young boy in the audience who happens to see us. Maybe he's 12 or 13 and starting to question his sexuality. And he sees us and it's just presented as normal. I feel it's very important for gay people to be visible, because it becomes normalized. It's awesome that they allowed us to do it.
If you could go on vacation anywhere in the world after the run of the show where would it be?
Justin: On a beach somewhere in Spain.
Julius: Fiji, just to be surrounded by that water.
And what would you be drinking?
Justin: A piña colada.
Julius: Me too! Super strong so the sugar doesn't get to me.