Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Hosted by popular Sirius XM radio host Seth Rudetsky, who asks questions of the star for the evening while also serving as the piano accompanist, this series provides a unique way to not only hear some phenomenal vocals from Broadway performers but also get a behind the scenes look into their personal experiences as well as the business of Broadway. Rudetsky's conversation with Hilty touched on her training and education, the ups and downs in auditioning, and on three hugely successful women that helped and inspired her along the way.
Hilty was born in Washington state and started classical training when she was 12. She attended the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama which, she said, provided her with the opportunity to participate in showcases that got her in front of casting agents and managers. That opportunity afforded her, while she was still in college, to get cast to co-star in the national tour of Little Shop of Horrors. However, she said she quickly felt both the highs and lows of show business when almost immediately after being offered that part, it was rescinded. She was told that it was determined that she would look too young to play against the "A-list" co-star that had just been signed for the tour, Anthony Rapp.
Fortunately, that setback didn't deter her and those same casting agents brought her to New York the following year to audition for an even bigger job, serving as the standby for the role of Glinda in Wicked on Broadway. Hilty spoke about how crazy it was to audition for that part and how excited it was, not only when she got the part but when she first went on in the role, with just a two hour notice. She said that her co-star Idina Menzel, whom she had never even rehearsed with before, was incredibly kind, compassionate and inspiring and that she has always tried to treat her co-stars in the same way that Menzel treated her. She then joked that she really hopes Idina makes it big some day.
There were many other humorous moments like that throughout the evening with the spontaneous conversation between Rudetsky and Hilty and his fun and probing questions eliciting insightful and down to earth responses from Hilty. There were also plenty of songs Hilty had sung before, both on stage and screen, sprinkled throughout the concert, as well as a few that audience members may not have heard her sing before.
Hilty delivered a very fun rendition of "Popular" from Wicked and also sang a beautiful version of "Somewhere That's Green" from Little Shop of Horrors. She spoke about how inspiring it was to work with Dolly Parton, who wrote the score for the musical 9 to 5, but also how scary it was to play the part that Parton had played in the film. She then delivered a stellar performance of that character's solo, "Backwoods Barbie."
When that show closed just a few months after it opened, Hilty moved to Los Angeles for a change of scenery and almost immediately began the process to play one of the female leads in "Smash," though she said the road from first hearing about the show to actually getting cast in the pilot, and then having the pilot picked up was incredibly long. She sang three songs from "Smash" that her character sang in the show, including the soaring upbeat songs "They Just Keep Moving the Line," which opened the concert in Scottsdale, "Let Me Be Your Star," and the poignant ballad "Second Hand White Baby Grand." She talked about how Bernadette Peters was a huge inspiration when she was growing up and how she was both excited and scared when she heard Peters was cast to play her mother in "Smash." She said she still can't believe that she knows Peters and how, when she gets an email from her, she gets frenzied and has to ask her husband how to respond to even simple questions that Bernadette asks, including "how are you doing?".
Rudetsky also got Hilty to sing two songs from classic Broadway musicals, both of which received beautiful renditions: a soaring "My White Knight" from The Music Man and a lilting "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady. Hilty also delivered a touching version of "She Used to be Mine" from Waitress and commented on how excited she was that her "Smash" co-star Katharine McPhee is about to make her Broadway debut in the show.
There was plenty of humor in Hilty's stories she told about the mishaps that can happen when a set breaks down or a prop like her wand in Wicked goes flying out into the audience. She brought that same humorous touch to the hilarious "Alto's Lament" by Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler.
Hilty said she believes there is always room for improvement, and that personal anecdote along with her down to earth delivery resonated throughout a stellar evening of stories and song. The evening ended with a touching encore of the duet "Suddenly Seymour" from Little Shop of Horrors that provided Rudetsky the chance to sing with Hilty. It ended the evening on a high.
Future dates for shows in this year's season of "Broadway @ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts" are Laura Benanti on March 17 and Vanessa Williams on April 7.
Megan Hilty performed at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, February 24th 2018. Information for upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.