Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Boston


Regional Reviews by Matthew Small

The Boston Pops
with special guest Megan Hilty

Symphony Hall


Megan Hilty
The Boston Pops began an evening concert on May 23 with a lush tribute to Hollywood film music, under the direction of Keith Lockhart. Hearing the incredible ensemble is always a treat, but nothing beat the rousing world premiere of "License to Trill," a concerto on James Bond themes featuring the inexhaustible Boston Cello Quartet, which capped off the orchestra's first half of the show.

After intermission, Megan Hilty confidently took to the stage for her Boston Pops debut with a robust set list culled from musical theater, television and pop. She joined forces with the orchestra and her own pianist-collaborator Adam Ben-David for the performance. The historic hall could barely contain Hilty's powerful, brassy voice, which she launched to the back rows with a force I cannot recall experiencing from any previous Broadway favorites I've seen at the Pops.

Hilty, Ben-David and the orchestra shared seven numbers on stage. Along with her growing resume in the theater world, Hilty starred in the entertaining, over-the-top, theater-insider drama "Smash," in which she portrayed a Broadway gypsy doing her darnedest to land the role of Marilyn Monroe in the fictional bio-musical Bombshell. The first number of her act with the Pops was "They Just Keep Moving the Line," by "Smash"'s in-house songwriting team of Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman. For a few brief moments, the sound team seemed to experience difficulty adjusting levels to contain Hilty's belt. Perhaps the microphone could not handle all that power. Soon enough, everyone's talents—technical and otherwise—gelled for an unforgettable program of songs.

Though auto-tune music wizards tend to over-correct vocal imperfections for TV, Hilty sounds even better performing live. In the intimate, moving "Secondhand White Baby Grand," also from "Smash," she reminded us that "something second hand and broken still can make a pretty sound." As an actor, Hilty and her television character must do everything possible to maintain the thick skin needed to succeed in show business, while staying connected to the deep emotional reserves required to interpret such beautiful music. It calls for a sensitive inner confidence that most of us would find impossible. And yet, she's still here, singing her heart out for us.

Hilty's comedic chops are just as strong as her vocal chords. Her performances of the cabaret favorite "Alto's Lament" and the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes showstopper "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" flooded the packed house with laughter and applause. Perhaps it's her pre-ingénue background playing, as she put it, "the mother or the hooker with the heart of gold" in seasons of summer stock theater that strengthened her comedic foundation. Take away the music, though, and her acting can stand on its own.

The evening with Hilty also included a well-delivered medley of Dolly Parton songs, a heartfelt "For Good," from Wicked and "Bye, Bye Baby," her audition song for "Smash." Though NBC recently canceled the show, the rise of Hilty's star has only begun. Whether she's headlining concert dates, moving to another television series or trodding the boards of the American theater, decades remain to enjoy Hilty's performances. She's here to stay.

The regular Boston Pops season continues with two nights featuring Broadway and television star Matthew Morrison on May 28 and 29 at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. For tickets and information, visit the box office, call (617) 266-1200 or purchase online at www.bostonpops.org.

- Matthew Small




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