Having previously seen Broadway leading lady Megan Hilty locally in 2014 at The Cabaret and in a 2015 Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Pops concert, I knew what to expect when I attended her Palladium concert Friday at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
An actress-singer, Hilty made her mark on Broadway playing Glinda in “Wicked,” and in “9 to 5: The Musical,” in which she played Doralee Rhodes, the Dolly Parton role. Most recently, she appeared in “Noises Off,” for which she won a Tony Award nomination. But the role for which Hilty is best known is that of Ivy Lynn in NBC’s musical drama, “Smash.”
Accompanied by her band consisting of husband Brian Gallagher on acoustic guitar, Hilty was also joined by Matt Cusson on piano, Matt Scharfglass on bass and drummer Jack DeBoe—all accomplished musicians. Acknowledging her love for Broadway musicals during her introduction, Hilty’s program consisted mostly of show tunes, as well as songs from “Smash” and others.
Between songs, Seattle native Hilty projected a bubbly personality and playful sense of humor, as she shared stories and anecdotes about her background and stage and television career with an audience of all ages, including many young people. They were, no doubt, “Smash” fans, based on their enthusiastic, audible response to songs she performed from the series. They included “Movin’ the Line” and “Second Hand White Baby Grand,” both written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman for the fictional musical “Bombshell,” a show about “Marilyn Monroe,” within the show.
Possessing a quintessential Broadway-belter voice and versatile range, Hilty sang songs from “Wicked,” including “Popular” and “For Good.” Reprising her role in “9 to 5,” she also sang a mashup of “Backwoods Barbie” and “9 to 5,” during which she nailed Parton’s singular vocal style.
At one point during her concert, soprano Hilty revealed she had classical training and at one time, had considered a career in opera, but once she realized she probably couldn’t perform consistently until her voice matured, she decided to pursue musical theatre instead. Once she got her foot in the door, however, she said casting directors wanted her for alto roles rather than soprano ones. To illustrate, she sang a clever novelty song called “Alto’s Lament” followed by “I Could Have Danced All Night,” during which she showed off a soprano voice that rivaled that of Julie Andrews’ (when she still had her powers).
A highlight was a snappy duet of “That’s Life,” made famous by Frank Sinatra, featuring Hilty and pianist, Matt Cusson, an R&B and pop singer. Matching headliner Hilty, Cusson was a showman in his own right.
A high-energy show filled with big expansive numbers and short on ballads, with a second act more affecting than the first, Hilty’s concert ended on a quiet note. Her encore performance of “Rainbow Connection” was a tradition she said began when she was pregnant with her nearly two-year old son Ronan. It was a sweet, endearing ending to an evening that showcased a bigger-than-life entertainer who knows how to connect with her audience.