BWW Interview: Sarah Hinrichsen of ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE at Robinson Performance Hall
Sarah Hinrichsen was born into a theatrical family, so her journey from California to Margaritaville was almost fated. She was kind enough to share her experiences from dinner theater rehearsals as a child to becoming the Yelp Queen on the road. Here she is on her first National tour playing Rachel in Escape to Margaritaville.
So Sarah, where are you from?
I'm from Upland, California, which is a super small town. I thought it was super small but then I went to actual small towns and realized that California small town is not the same as real life small towns. But I grew up in Upland, and that's 30 miles east of Los Angeles. I went to high school in Orange County.
I know that your family was in theatre. Do you have any memories about growing up in theatre?
I do. You know, it's funny, both my parents are involved in theatre and my dad was artistic director of a dinner theater growing up. And so my mom was always in the shows and my dad was always directing the shows. So when I was growing up, I always felt like I was a part of this huge family. I'm an only child, but it always felt like I had a huge family. We would always be at the theater, my parents and their friends. My mom always jokes that I had 15 people raising me at all times because there was always someone there to, to sing with me or to laugh at me or whatever. My dad's favorite story is he was directing Fiddler and I was sitting in the front row watching final dress, and I guess they do the opening. And I'm like, wide eyed and so excited and they start the first scene and I stood up on the chair and turned around to him in the sound booth and I yelled "too much talking when are they gonna sing again?" So I always wanted to be in musicals not plays apparently.
Growing up in the theater was there anything else you wanted to do?
My parents put me in soccer, and I went to a horse camp and figure skating camp but anytime I had any other activity to go to I was like," but do I get to go to rehearsal after", I just wanted to do theatre? It's funny that people are always like, how did you get involved and it's a running joke that I didn't stand a chance. I mean, my parents met playing Harold and Marian in Music Man. I'm like, you guys come on, you've given me such unrealistic expectations for the rest of my life. I always joke with them and say what would you guys have done if I couldn't hold a tune, what would have been the move? They were like, well, we still would have loved you we just really wouldn't have known how to support you as much.
Did you take dance and singing and acting lessons or did you get all of that from your parents?
You know, my dad always jokes because growing up I never asked
him. Now, I know he's the best director in the world but I would always say, "Oh, I want to work with this acting teacher or I want to stay after school and work with this teacher and my dad would say " I'll help you with that" . And I'd be, " but you're my dad like you don't know." Now every time I record a video or anything I say " Can you watch these, are you busy? What are you doing?" He's like, "Oh, now she wants to help."
You attended Orange County High School of Performing Arts, what was that like
to be in a high school where you are surrounded by people like yourself?
You know, it's so funny because we always joke I had the most incredible high school experience It was a smaller school and everyone around you has a similar love of musical theatre. You wake up, in fact we were waking up at 6am because we had to drive an hour to get to school which again, shout out to my parents for doing that, I can't believe you guys let me do that. Then you'd be in class till one and then we had conservatory from one to five and then you had your art classes and then if you were in one of the shows you stay from five to nine and then drive home and do it all over again so it's so funny because now I look back on that I'm like, how did we do that? That's insane. I think when you're just doing something you love so much you're just excited to be around like minded people.
How many shows would they put on in a regular year?
We always did one musical for the 9th and 10th graders and then one for the 11th and 12th graders. But then we also do these concerts throughout the year and then we would do a season finale. We would do a concert called Performing at the Pros. And I remember my freshman year, we did Performing at the Pros with Danny Gerwyn, who is just the coolest man in the world. And music director for that was a guy named Matt Smedal. That was my freshman year of high school so long ago, and I walk into the first day of rehearsal for Margaritaville and that was our music director, Matt Smedal. I remember me, I said, "Matt, do you remember me?" He was like, "Oh my gosh, what are the chances?" It was wild. It's kind of crazy how those connections from high school just continue to sort of like bless my life throughout my adult career and are like, Oh my gosh. So I do feel so lucky to have been at school.
Well, did you have a favorite show that you did from that time?
Oh, my sophomore year I did Once Upon a Mattress, and I thought, okay, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. It was a solidifying moment. It switched from, Oh, this is something fun and I like to sing kind of and I like to dance kind of and then it was like, No, I want to do this, it's my passion. I just couldn't imagine doing anything else.
So at that point, you never thought about doing anything else?
Yeah, pretty much. I mean, it's funny because, your whole life, they try to say, it's a hard career. If you can imagine doing anything else, do that. And, of course, those days when you have self doubt, and you're like, well, maybe I would be happy doing something else. I think it is sort of the support of my parents being, "well you'll never know unless you try." And even if you have one bad audition, you only need one yes. So that's been my motto from the time I got out of school to auditioning because it gets it gets draining. Waking up at 5am to go to an audition is hard, but it's the payoff. Especially, being on tour and playing these incredible houses and this is so worth any bad day, or any bad audition so worth the payoff of getting to do what you love every day.
What was the first Broadway album or CD that you listen to on repeat?
This is so funny and so random? Because it is funny I remember consistently playing the Follies soundtrack. Oh, wait, no, you know what, there's actually a funny story. When I was a kid, I guess I would disappear into the other room, we would all be watching a movie and I would disappear and they would just hear me belting A Weekend In The Country from the other room and they would be like "oh, is she okay?" So a five year old girl screlting A Weekend In The Country. Oh yeah I guess that and Follies were like my favorites , which are hilarious. That's classic musical theatre as opposed to anything normal.
How did you choose to attend Oklahoma City University?
You know, I auditioned to so many schools because I worked with a coach that said that, it's hard to be a female in musical theatre. And when you're auditioning for schools, if you get into two, that's a big deal. It's just a really tough and it's kind of cutthroat when you're auditioning. So I audition to a bunch of places. I narrowed it down to about four or five schools that I really liked. And then my family and I went to visit all of them and I remember it was so funny. My parents were both, just go with your gut wherever you go. And when I walked onto the OCU campus, I just felt it just felt like home. I felt like I was going to get good training there. I liked the teachers I met with and I loved the student body. That is one of the claims to fame is our alumni are just incredible and so loving. And I think that was evident when I went to visit and of course we have incredible alumni. We have Kelli O'Hara and Kristen Chenoweth, but then we have so many working alumni in the business. Last weekend we were in Washington, and I had two girls come up to me at the stage door and they said, "You don't know us but we're freshmen at OCU" and their mom's are with them and they said,," it's just so reassuring to us to go see a show as a family and see you as an OC alum being out there. It just it makes us feel like our kids are in the right place." And Oh my gosh, if I could give anything back. That's the dream.
That was one of the best things that you learned at OCU?
Um, I guess it's that there's no one specific path to success. And I was lucky enough I had the most incredible acting teachers, the most incredible voice teachers. And I think it's the sort of thing you never stop training. Like you graduate and then you go to four years of college and you learn all these incredible tools and then you have to really focus on taking those into the real world. So you go out and now you know how to do a Chekhov monologue, but how do you make that something that people want to watch in the real world? So I was lucky that I had teachers, especially my senior year that were really focused on how you can make your own stuff and do your own work, especially in the world of the digital age. How can we get ourselves out there and be seen in a way that it's going to be a positive influence for the rest of our lives? I think any school can be a wonderful school as long as you take as much as you can with the tools you're given. And I think a lot of times that's your project, with teachers that are willing to invest in you and I think OCU did a great job of doing that.
Where were you when you found out you go the part in Escape to Margaritaville?
Funny enough, I was on my way to see Beauty And The Beast at Paper Mill Playhouse, and I was literally on the Jersey Transit. I get this call from an unknown number and I answered, I was with my best friend and I answered and I'm said hello. And they say, "Hey, it's Brad from Trioka and we want to offer you Rachel in the Escape to Margaritaville" and I just yelled, "Are you serious?", I was just so excited. My friend said, "Are you okay?" I said, yeah, and he said, "Do you have time to talk?" and I said "I'm on the Jersey Transit. I'm gonna lose you, can I call you back?" It's funny, I had gone through about five months of callbacks for it. So it was like the running joke with my family. They would say, so how are your auditions? How's it going in Margaritaville? Like it was its own category in itself? Is it gonna happen? Is it not, you know. You go to so many auditions and you have to learn to go and then let it go but for some reason this one I just really held on hope for. So it was just so incredible that to get to finally do it.
What has been the biggest surprise about touring?
Oh, the best part has been waking up in a new city all the time. We were back to back in Washington, DC one night and then the next night, we're in Utica, New York, which couldn't be more different. They both have so many little treasures about them. In DC, I went on a run between shows on Saturday and ran next to the Lincoln Memorial. And the next day we're in Utica and I had the best cup of coffee I've ever had. Nothing is the same, but at the same time, you're seeing these incredible new places. So I guess I didn't realize how much joy it would bring me to get to see all these different places. And then, doing the show itself , we always joke that it feels like a two hour vacation. But it's a two hour vacation for us too, because we always leave the theater in a better mood then when we got there, even if we're in a great mood, we're happier at the end.
Has there been anything challenging about being on tour?
Touring is nuts because on top doing the show and everything, you go through long travel days and we had a 9 hour bus ride one day and then the next day we're doing three shows in a row, so it gets tough. And I think for me, it's hard to not have a routine. You know, you're always in a hotel room, you're always in a new place. I have my a two ounce candle that makes my hotel room feel like home. You have to remember that you're changing climates and steam your vocal cords and constantly check out the new surroundings. And I think the best set of advice I got was a friend of mine that toured a ton said no matter what you do, just try to be a tourist anywhere you go, like every hotel room looks the same, but make sure you get out and see at least one thing. So we've all I think as a cast and trying to do that as much as possible.
Do any sort of research about the cities and states that you're going to before you get there?
Everyone in the cast actually makes fun of me because I love Yelp.
Yelp is my favorite app. And I'm constantly looking at things in the area. In our group chat, they literally changed my name to Yelp Queen because I love it so much. I will say, "You guys this place got a 5 star rating" and they will say, yeah but it's 20 minutes away I'm like that's not the point ,we need to check it. I think it's fun to have things to look forward to in the next city like there's a coffee shop in Fayetteville and I'm excited to visit. Then it's hard to leave the city because you kind of fall in love everywhere you are at least I fall in love with every theater we go to and I say,, this is the best theater we'll ever play and then I go the next city and I say, this is the best theater we'll ever play. It gives me something to look forward to it makes a little easier to leave.
What was your worst audition?
I am like the queen of here-we-go-let's-just-see-what-happens. I walked into a room once and I was holding my sheet music binder and I tripped on something that's not there and I am in heels and my binder flies and all my music goes everywhere. And I was on my knees, I look up at the casting panel and I was just said, "oh wasn't so much fun?" And they all just burst into laughter and it turned out to be a great audition because I truly nothing to lose at this point.
Do you have any plans after the tour is finished?
No, I mean, it's crazy that in our industry, we finish and then we go back to New York and start auditioning all over again. It's exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I have a ton of my friends who were on tour last year and they are all just getting back to the city now and we always laugh when people are like, what's next? And they're say I don't know probably go to Dig Inn and get lunch.
What is your guilty pleasure?
My guilty pleasure right now, we always joke, Shelly Walsh, who plays Tammy, she and I are obsessed with HGTV, we love it. I don't have cable in New York and all these hotels have cable so the first thing we do is go to see what's on HGTV tonight? Everybody's like don't you wanna go out and party and I say "No, what's on HGTV?"
Sarah Hinrichsen and the rest of the cast of Escape to
Margaritaville will be in Little Rock, November 1st-3rd.. For
tickets contact in person at Celebrity Attractions, via phone at
866.870.2717 or locally at 501.244.8800 or online at http://