Megan Hilty is a Tony Award-nominated Broadway star, who rose to fame almost 15 years ago after taking on the role of Glinda in the New York production of Wicked opposite Idina Menzel. She went on to play that role on tour across the US and opened the LA production before returning to Broadway for the world premiere of 9 to 5 – The Musical for which she received a number of award nominations. Since that time, Hilty has racked up a host of performing credits for work on both the stage and screen. Later this year, she’ll be seen on US TV screens paying country legend Patsy Cline in a new film for the Lifetime network about Cline and Loretta Lynn.
But among her many successes, Hilty is perhaps best known for playing the role of Ivy Lynn in the 2012 musical TV series, Smash, a show centred on the making of a fictitious musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. And it is music to the ears of her fans (literally) when she opens her Sydney Opera House Concert Hall performance with a Smash cut – the Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman-penned ‘They just keep moving the line’. It sets the tone for a 90-minute presentation, featuring Hilty and a 40-piece orchestra, that has fans absorbed from start to finish.
It’s not long into the show before Hilty references the Wicked days, which came right after her graduation from Carnegie Mellon University. She recalls for the audience the advice she received from Menzel before stepping into Glinda’s bubble for the first time and then launches into two Wicked favourites – ‘Popular’ and ‘For good’. The latter performance is particularly memorable, infused with wonderful emotion.
Hilty’s voice is an instrument to behold, never wavering for even a second and making each syllable sung appear effortless. While she’s a classically-trained soprano, her concert catalogue allows her to showcase her impressive versatility and belt. Other musical theatre standards that make their way into the concert include Gershwin’s ‘Someone to watch over me’, and ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Hilty also draws from her 2013 debut album, It happens all the time, performing her cover of ‘The heart of the matter’, originally a solo hit for Don Henley in 1990. She also demonstrates her impeccable comedy skills in a performance of ‘Alto’s lament’, a number written by Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler about a girl longing to sing the melody instead of harmony. She even fits in a rather tender rendition of ‘Rainbow connection’ before drawing the evening to a close.
But it’s the Smash songs that illicit the loudest audience responses of the night. A moving ‘Second hand white baby grand’ is followed by a version of ‘Don’t forget me’ that morphs into ‘Let me be your star’, arguably the most popular track and series. Not only are these standout performances, but Hilty’s affection for this time in her career is palpable.
Led by musical director, Michael Tyack, the orchestra is in fine form, offering Hilty first-class backing and gorgeously reproducing each number. It’s a rare treat for musical theatre fans to experience an orchestra of this size.
Another plus is that Hilty is as confident when it comes to banter as she is in song. She reveals a great sense of humour and an authenticity, as she talks about her family, attending opera camp and her love of live performance.
Everything makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and unforgettable evening of music with a bona fide Broadway star. It’s been three years since Hilty last graced our shores. We can only hope that another series of Australian concerts is just around the corner.