Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Megan Hilty Comes ‘Home’ to Sing Songs of Stephen Schwartz with SMC

Megan Hilty (courtesy Flying House)

The beautiful musical star, Megan Hilty, locally-grown talent and now gaining increasing fame in television (SMASH, Sean Saves the World) and movies (Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return), is performing with our own Seattle Men’s Chorus for the second time. Hilty and the SMC will do a concert at McCaw Hall entirely focused on the great composer/writer Stephen Schwartz and his songs.

Hilty has been incredibly busy, lately, even though her latest network television show (Sean Saves the World) has been cancelled. She put out her first album, It Happens All the Time. She’s doing the voiceover for the China Princess in Legends of Oz (the movie site says: “the diminutive high ruler of China County, the most eligible bachelorette in all the land, and nowhere near as fragile as you might think”). She joined the second season of what looks like a hilarious web series: It Could Be Worse.

ICBW (the website says) “stars SMASH alum Wesley Taylor (Bobby, Seasons 1 and 2) as Jacob, a Broadway wannabe looking to make it big in a New York minute. Although he was cast in his first big Broadway show, he's often stuck at home tending to a needy long-term boyfriend, or is held back by his overbearing parents.”

And she got married to Brian Gallagher in November. Now, she and Brian are touring in performances together. Megan told SGN, in a phone interview, “It’s so great that we can travel together. He sings and plays guitar and he’s a dreamboat!”

Megan is on record as wanting to “just keep working.” She’s willing to do any kind of performance that comes along, from stage to television to movies to recording studio. She has said she got tired of “workshops and hearing, ‘We need a star,’ (before she became one). I can cry or (work to become) the person they’re going to hire. I’m lucky someone believed in me and took a chance.” Her code for longevity is: diversify.

I asked Megan to take us a little behind the scenes for the big, heart-shocking moment of transition when she walked on to the Broadway stage, after graduating college and becoming the stand-by for Glinda on Broadway in Wicked. The musical had opened just nine months before, and Glinda had been taken over by Jennifer Laura Thompson from originator, Kristin Chenoweth. Megan was cast as stand-by, which meant that she had to be there every performance in case she had to go on.

However, Megan describes that it also meant that she had only ever rehearsed with a stage manager saying lines to her, and had never even rehearsed in costume! Megan says, “Stand-by, you’re just in your dressing room until an emergency happens. It’s used for major roles that you need that extra insurance on. A lot of times Elphabas would go on in the middle of the first act. Whoever is playing Elphaba would realize that she couldn’t make it through (second act’s song) Defying Gravity and they would start getting the standby ready. The person playing the role would walk off stage in a scene and the standby would walk on in the next scene… Then during intermission, they would announce the casting change.”

So, that day, Megan had about two hours’ notice. I imagined that she would have been terrified. “I’m always nervous about everything,” Megan says. “I’m always afraid someone is going to figure out I’m not supposed to be there. They’ll find me out. But, I think something’s wrong if you’re not nervous. You have to not let nerves be in your way. You have to use them to your advantage. It keeps you honest, on your toes, and motivated to do the best you can to prove you really belong there.”

Megan describes, “Can you imagine? I made my Broadway debut opposite Idina Menzel having never done the show with other people before! It was a whole lot of new experiences at once. There were times during the show – there’s a rehearsal study in the Gershwin (Theatre) at the top of the building and me and the other standby would go rehearse together so no one would hear us and we’d do the scenes together, but that was about all I had before going on my first time.

“They called me a couple of hours before the show saying Jennifer had called out. Idina walked in the dressing room and asked if I wanted to go over anything. I was so terrified. She said, ‘Let’s just go out and make this show our own. Let’s have fun.’ She could have been particular about where I should stand or what I should do, but she wasn’t like that. She was really wonderful. It totally put me at ease and I was able to have fun. I don’t really remember much about that night, but I was able to relax a little bit.”

Megan describes how people in New York, in particular, feel very comfortable walking up to her on the street to talk about her role as Ivy in SMASH. “People don’t really understand. They think they’re giving a compliment, but it’s really not. ‘Wow! The camera does really add a lot (of weight), because you’re really tiny.’ That one’s a hard one to swallow.”

Currently, Megan and her husband make their home in Los Angeles, though she says she goes back to New York frequently. She also visits her family in Bellevue and was here for the holidays.

She is looking forward to her second visit with SMC. “They’re so much fun. I’m looking forward to working with them again. I pretty much knew, before I worked with them, that I was going to be walking into a fun, talented group of people. “

If you are wondering what her segments of the evening will be, she reports that she is singing Popular and For Good (from Wicked), Corner of the Sky (Pippin), Stranger to the Rain (Children of Eden) (Megan says, “The lyrics say, ‘I’m not a stranger to the rain,’ and that’s hilarious because I’m from Seattle.”), and Beautiful City (Godspell). For Good is being done as a solo. Megan says she sings to the audience as the people who have changed her “for good.”

For information about tickets on March 29 or 30, go to http://www.flyinghouse.org/smc/2013-14/totallywicked.asp or https://tickets.flyinghouse.org/public/show_events_list.asp or call (206)388-1400.