Taking a pause from a national tour as Rachel in Jimmy Buffett’s new musical Escape to Margaritaville, actress Sarah Hinrichsen told the Signal Tribune in an interview last Wednesday that she is delighted to be performing back in Southern California again.
A graduate of the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA), Hinrichsen performed close to home at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts last week and will soon spend three weeks at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles beginning Feb. 18.
The show’s tour had begun last fall on the East Coast– Hinrichsen had gone to New York to audition for the part– before stopping in numerous cities across the country, with performance dates set through August.
But Hinrichsen is not fazed by the show’s exhaustive schedule, appreciating the learning experience that has come with her first national tour as Rachel, an environmental scientist who undergoes a journey in learning balance.
“This role came along like a dream,” Hinrichsen said. “She’s such a strong female character.”
Hinrichsen loves how Rachel reaches people, recalling that she met a mother with a young daughter at a coffee shop in Florida after the show and the little girl exclaimed, “I want to be a scientist now!”
Hinrichsen has also enjoyed playing Jo March in Little Women and Katherine in the musical Newsies last year.
“I’m starting to get this reputation for playing these strong female roles,” she laughed, adding that such characters are important for both girls and boys to see.
In Escape to Margaritaville, Rachel is on a final bachelorette weekend with her best friend Tammy (played by Shelly Lynn Walsh), when they meet bartender Brick (Peter Michael Jordan) and Tully (Chris Clark), a bar singer.
“Chaos ensues,” Hinrichsen says about her character Rachel meeting Tully. “She learns the importance of balance and how she can have her career and also her love life and let loose for a week.”
Meanwhile, Tammy and Brick provide comic relief, Hinrichsen said, adding that the script by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley is incredibly rich. Hinrichsen is still learning things about her character even after a hundred performances, she said.
The musical– which Buffett first developed in 2017– also features an ensemble cast and original songs by Buffett plus many of his classics, such as “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
Hinrichsen describes Buffett– who has recorded over 50 albums and also authored several books– as casual and unassuming.
“I never thought my career would lead me to say, ‘I have met Jimmy Buffett,’” Hinrichsen said. “But he’s exactly the guy you want to see. He walks in and it’s like your lost family member just entered the room.”
Though Buffett is not part of the production, Hinrichsen says she feels his presence.
“I always feel like he’s kind of in the show because it’s all his music,” she said.
And though she and Rachel are different in personalities, Rachel reminds Hinrichsen of aspects of herself.
“She’s so career focused, she’s so goal oriented,” Hinrichsen said. “What’s so beautiful about the show is that when she meets Tully, she sort of learns that [her job] doesn’t have to be her whole life. It can be a part of her life.”
When asked what she would like audiences to take away from Rachel’s experience, Hinrichsen said it’s how Rachel realizes her life can be more fulfilling if she changes her mindset.
“Rachel shows that you can have it all,” Hinrichsen said. “If you’re willing to see the world a little bit differently and take a moment for yourself.”
For Hinrichsen, performing night after night in different towns may seem imbalanced– “It’s a weird career,” she says. “We don’t go to work until seven o’ clock at night”– but she is buoyed by her energetic castmates, having traveled with them since October, including over the major holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.
“When you are on the road and you’re with people, you fall in love really quickly because you don’t know anyone else in the area,” she said. “We’re lucky that our cast is made of incredible human beings.”
And she has gotten to know their daily habits well, joking, “I can tell you every single person’s coffee order, but I’m not sure I know their middle names.”
Hinrichsen is also energized by the responsibility of giving each new audience the best musical-theatre experience she can, adding that the cast invites the audience to participate in a final dance number.
“Seeing the way the music affects people is great for us because it reminds us that the show is making a difference,” she said. “If we can give people a two-hour vacation in this time when it seems like we really need it, then that’s the greatest gift.”