Megan Hilty Brings Her ‘Kennedy Center Christmas’ Dec. 13

In a telephone interview, the singer-actress Megan Hilty will sometimes tell you that she felt “terrified” on certain occasions in her career: when she took over the role Glinda in the Broadway smash “Wicked”, for instance, or when she performed in her first solo concert.

Yet, if you’ve seen her on stage or on television, solo or with a big cast, you notice something about Hilty. She’s a big voiced but rangy song stylist with a blonde and curvy, glittery presence. She is the epitome of people born to the stage, to the “gotta sing, gotta dance (and gotta emote and act)” world of the Great White Way. She’s a Broadway baby in the best and whole sense of the phrase.

The “Wicked” star and star of the Broadway musical version of “Nine to Five” is probably best known nationally for her turn as, well, a kind of Broadway baby in the television series “Smash,” which lasted two seasons and centered around the rivalries and tempestuous relationships and maneuverings involved in the making of a Broadway musical. For theater buffs, it was more than just a guilty pleasure, it was a high-dudgeon melodrama with love affairs, betrayals, scheming and battling for big roles on stage and behind the scenes, not to mention lots of singing and dancing production numbers. Hilty was paired with former “American Idol” star Katharine McPhee, competing for the female lead in a show being put together by the likes of Anjelica Huston and Debra Messing.

Hilty was a natural in it—the perfect fit for a dancer and singer—and comedienne– who was hungry for a starring role.

“That was a great experience,” she said. “It gave me a chance to really act, to use all of the gifts you have.”

The Washington state-born star started out wanting to be an opera singer, but “you know, you have to really start early, it’s like you’re just like an Olympic athlete. So, I turned to theater.” She’s a 2004 graduate of the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama and a recipient of the National Society of Arts and Letters Award for Excellence in Musical Theater.

Straight out of Carnegie Mellon, she auditioned for a part in “Wicked” and got a part as a standby for Glinda, in 2004. She took over the part in 2005 and ended her run in 2006 before reprising the role again when she originated the role in the Los Angeles production in 207.

“I was terrified, originally,” she said. “Kristin Chenowith is kind of the standard for that role.”

Hilty has done guest appearances on television—a memorable role in an episode of “Crime Scene Investigation”—”CSI”— with the resonant title of “Deep Fried and Minty Fresh” as the manager of a fast food restaurant called Choozy’s Chicken. “That,” she said, “was fun.”

But her favorite role was performing as Lorelei Lee, the gold-digging ambitious blonde of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” a role made famous by two American entertainment originals, Carol Channing on stage and Marilyn Monroe in the movie version.

“I absolute love her [Monroe]. She was such a smart, funny and talented woman,” Hilty said. “It was a Encore production, a concert staging in 2012, but I felt so thrilled to be doing that. I’ve seen most of her movies.”

She wowed New York critic Ben Brantley, who wrote that Hilty performed with “a finely graded style that layers filigree comic flourishes over the raw will and stamina of a top flight athlete.” “Ms. Hilty,” Brantley wrote, “sets the tone for a production that locates the athletic, all-American verve in ‘Gentlemen.’ ”

“If I had a dream,” Hilty said. “I would love to do the role in a fully, big-time Broadway production.”

It might happen. Meanwhile, she’s in town to do her second Christmas stint at the Kennedy Center, this time at the Terrace Theater, singing standards, perhaps a song or two from her 2013 solo album “It Happens All the Time”, and Christmas carols, including “Jingle Bells.”

Life moves on. She married musician Brian Gallagher. In September, she gave birth to their daughter Viola Philomena.

“That’s her in the background,” she said during a telephone interview. And indeed, there was the sound of a baby complaining a little, making her presence known.

For Hilty, the song of Viola Philomena sounds like her very own Christmas carol.

Megan Hilty’s “A Kennedy Center Christmas” is at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, Saturday, Dec. 13.


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