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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 44
Coming home the best Christmas present for Megan Hilty
Arts & Entertainment
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Coming home the best Christmas present for Megan Hilty

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

Megan Hilty and the Seattle Men's Chorus' Cool Yule Holiday Concert
November 26-27
Benaroya Hall


Megan Hilty is getting to do something that she usually doesn't get to do: she's coming home for the holidays. Her performance schedule - whether it's performing on Broadway or in concerts - usually keeps her away from her home of Bellevue, but not this year. Her return has a (Santa) clause: she's singing with the Seattle Men's Chorus in their traditional yearly Cool Yule concert. With such credits as Glinda from Wicked and Doralee Rhodes, the Dolly Parton clone in the stage musical of 9 to 5, Hilty has all of the SMC looking forward, making their lists, and checking them twice.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest musical influences?

Megan Hilty: My mom read an article when she was pregnant with me that tone-deaf parents should not sing to their unborn children. Mom thought she was tone-deaf so she played recordings for me instead. I remember hearing Manhattan Transfer or The Music Man. Those were my earliest influences.

Andrews-Katz: You were in the hit Wicked almost immediately upon graduation from Carnegie Mellon University. What was your audition like for the show?

Hilty: I actually auditioned before I graduated. I didn't start until afterwards, though. It was terrifying. The casting director called me and said 'Come in for Wicked!' I've been hearing about the show but never saw it before the audition. I was sitting in the audience with my jaw on the floor. I thought it was crazy, that nobody could do it after Kristin [Chenoweth] created Glinda. I had a panic attack. But I looked over the scenes and my goal was to make them laugh. If I could make them laugh once, then I didn't waste anyone's time or money. I went in, not knowing that it was the final callbacks, with Joe Mantello and Stephen Schwartz there, and they had me do my stuff. I was there for eight minutes, and they laughed! My agent called and said, 'I don't know what you did for eight minutes, but they want to put you in the show!'

Andrews-Katz: As Glinda, you glide across the stage in mid-air. Were there any hesitations or mishaps about traveling by bubble?

Hilty: Sometimes the bubble would get stuck mid-air, and that's embarrassing. There's nothing you can do until they bring down the curtain. I do my lines from up in the bubble. It didn't happen often - they are very on top of things like that.

Andrews-Katz: You starred in Vanities, the Musical at its premiere. Vanities had a workshop here, as well. Which role did you play, and in what ways did you identify with the character?

Hilty: Mary, the slut. That's all I seem to play! I loved working on the music and am a huge fan of the [non-musical] play. It was great to work with those guys. I loved singing 'Fly into the Future' - it was my favorite part of the show.

Andrews-Katz: What are the advantages and disadvantages in doing an animated character's singing voice - like you did for Snow White in Shrek the Third - or performing a role on stage?

Hilty: The thing I really love about voiceovers is that you can do no wrong. You can be as crazy as you want to be and try as many different things as you'd like. The worst that can happen is that they delete it. It's so artistically fulfilling to go and play like that with no limits. Where on the stage, you get to try it once in front of an audience. Thank God you can try it again with a different audience the next day if it doesn't work. There's a particular freedom with voiceovers more than other media.

Andrews-Katz: You were involved in the workshops of 9 to 5, originating the role of Doralee Rhodes for the stage production. How did you come to be involved with the musical?

Hilty: I was up in Toronto doing Wicked. My boyfriend looked at me and said, 'They're doing 9 to 5 as a musical. Joe Mantello is directing. You should totally call and say you are interested in the show.' Literally the next day I got a call and was asked if I wanted to do the show. There were complications, as rehearsals would be in L.A. and there would be a six-week overlay while I was doing Wicked there. Joe Mantello told me, 'I'm doing double duty. You can too!' I said, 'Yes please!' Luckily, I didn't piss anyone off, and everyone in both casts is amazing.

Andrews-Katz: Do you think it's easier or more difficult to reimagine a character for the stage who is so beloved in a previous film?

Hilty: I think, for me, it's always incredibly daunting to reimagine something so iconic [as Glinda]. On one hand, the track has been laid for you - it's established, but you can't copy what someone else did. It's not real or honest, so it's not going to be touching or funny or believable to the audience. You have to figure out how to make it yours, step away from what's already been established so it can resonate with you. Just accept it. It was terrifying to tell myself that it was OK to do what I was going to do with it, my interpretations, instead of trying to replicate someone else's work.

Andrews-Katz: You've done film, television, and live theater. Do you have a preference of venue?

Hilty: I just prefer to be working. Period. I don't care what it is, I just prefer to be really busy and working on several different things at the same time. The projects I love are different, so I would prefer to keep a good, healthy mix for the rest of my life.

Andrews-Katz: Your new project is entitled Smash, and is called a 'musical television series.' What is it going to be about?

Hilty: It's about the making of a Broadway musical and the drama behind the drama. A group of people are brought together while they are mounting a Broadway show. It's awesome! For me, it's 15 dreams coming true at the same time. I get to sing, dance, and play a fantastic character with so many flaws - and so beautiful at the same time! It's great. The musical itself is about the life of Marilyn Monroe, so the themes of the show mirror her life if you look hard enough. It's funny at times, tragic at times, and there are some spectacular musical performances. It's original music. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman have written so many of the songs. Each one is a showstopper!

Andrews-Katz: Do you think with Glee and now Smash, there might be a renaissance with televised musicals?

Hilty: Perhaps. We've been called the 'adult Glee' and have been compared to them since we announced Smash. The only thing we have in common is that there are musical elements and songs in the show. Thank God for Glee, though, for without them, shows like ours wouldn't exist. It made it acceptable and cool to burst out into song. Smash is about theater, not about teenagers and show choirs. It's about real adult dramas.

Andrews-Katz: Given the option to play any role, regardless of gender or limitations, what role would you love to do on stage?

Hilty: The true role I always wanted to do was Mrs. Lovett [from Sweeney Todd] and the Witch [from Into the Woods]. I've idolized Bernadette Peters since I was old enough to speak. She's going to be playing my mother in Smash! She's coming in on Thursday, and I'm peeing in my pants over it! I don't know what I'm going to do. This is my life now, and I'm not sure how I will deal with it.

Meg Hilty was born in Bellevue, Washington. After attending Sammamish High School, and the Washington Academy of Performing Arts Conservatory High School (in Redmond), she graduated Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. She will be returning to Washington to perform with the Seattle Men's Chorus for their annual Cool Yule concert.

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