Megan Hilty says ‘Smash’ is still a ‘Smash’
LOS ANGELES – Megan Hilty says a day doesn’t go by when she isn’t asked about “Smash.”
Is it coming back? Is it going to be a Broadway musical?
“It’s a testament to the power of this show and the momentum it got after we went off the air, like five years ago,” Hilty says. “It’s wonderful to me that people are still interested.”
On the NBC musical series, Hilty played Ivy Lynn, an actress who’s cast as Marilyn Monroe in a stage biography called “Bombshell.” Pulling the curtain back on the world of Broadway, “Smash” was a big hit with theater geeks but didn’t have enough strength to last more than two seasons.
When the series ended, insiders said it had enough original music (by Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, among others) that a Broadway transfer seemed possible.
“I keep hearing about it, too,” Hilty says. “But I don’t know what that would be and what it would look like. Of course I would love to be a part of it. At the point where it actually is done, I might get an audition to play Marilyn’s mother.”
Singing songs from “Smash” on a “Live from Lincoln Center” concert this week, Hilty is demonstrating how far her career has come. In addition to playing Dolly Parton’s character in the stage version of “9 to 5,” she was one of the women who followed Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda in “Wicked.”
“I started right out of college and Kristin had set the bar so high – it was already an iconic performance,” Hilty says. “And I was a nobody. I was terrified and I thought I was supposed to be a robot and mimic her performance. It wasn’t until one of the stage managers said, ‘You have to stop watching this show and you have to make it your own,’ that I knew that that was really important.”
Hilty harbored the notion that audiences were expecting a certain performance from a replacement. A standby for Jennifer Laura Thompson, she was given two hours’ notice that she was going on.
“I was terrified,” the 38-year-old says, “and Idina (Menzel, the show’s Tony-winning star) came up and put her hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Let’s go out there and make this show our own tonight.’ It was the most kind gesture she could have ever done. Even though I was terrified, I got to enjoy the evening because of her.”
Hilty sings songs from “Wicked” in her one-woman show (she was joined on “Live” by two other Elphabas, Shoshana Bean and Eden Espinoza) and acknowledges what it did for her career.
Look closely at her resume, she says, and “you’ll notice it’s basically stuff that other people have already made ridiculously famous.”
In “9 to 5,” she got to sing the Oscar-nominated title song and learn plenty about its inspiration from Parton, who’s a friend. Frequently, she says, fans will ask, “What does Dolly smell like?”
“It’s disturbing that a lot of people want to know that and it’s disturbing that I have an answer because she does have a very specific smell that is just so delightful. I always describe it as like pixie dust in children’s dreams.”
A regular on the comedy “Sean Saves the World,” Hilty has been in a number of television shows post-“Smash” and earned a Tony nomination for her work in the revival of “Noises Off.”
More recently, she sang at the memorial concert for Craig Zadan, one of the executive producers of “Smash.”
“That night was a real mix of emotions,” she says. “Losing a friend is devastating but it was also this really beautiful tribute to this man who had done so much for other people. It was also kind of a beautiful little ‘Smash’ reunion, too. It was like every emotion you could imagine.”
Now living in California (where, Hilty says, it’s easier to raise two children and have a normal life), she returns to New York frequently and hasn’t turned her back on Broadway.
Animation is a great second job, allowing her to voice characters no matter where she happens to be.
She has several film roles lined up and a series of concerts that also feature her husband, Brian Gallagher.
“Our life is absolutely insane,” she says. “We met at a bar, because we’re classy. We got married in Vegas, because we’re classy. And we travel with our kids a lot.”