"Let me be your star!" belted out Megan Hilty in the pilot episode finale of NBC's musical series Smash. We did. She is.
Hilty shot to national acclaim as Smash's Ivy Lynn, an ambitious Broadway hopeful battling Katherine McPhee's girl next door for the starring role in a musical about Marilyn Monroe.
In real life, Hilty already was a Broadway star, following Kristen Chenoweth as Glinda in Wicked on Broadway, in Los Angeles, and on tour. She also re-created Dolly Parton's role of Doralee in Parton's musical adaptation of 9 to 5 on Broadway and in Los Angeles. For a second time, she out-Marilyned Monroe, earning rave reviews in a New York production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
In addition to a slew of TV appearances, her many voiceover credits include the voice of the sassy Southern fairy Rosetta in the Disney Fairies series.
In concert, Hilty has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, with the New York Pops, and the Houston Symphony. She's appeared at countless benefits for LGBT causes, and she tours the U.S. cabaret circuit with her husband, actor and singer Brian Gallagher.
On Saturday, Hilty comes to San Francisco for the Broadway @ The Nourse Concert Series, hosted by Broadway maven and pianist Seth Rudetsky. The show will benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Project Open Hand, and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.
"It's an awesome format that Seth has set up," Hilty tells The Advocate in a recent phone interview. "It's like Inside the Actors Studio for musicals. I come in with 10 or 12 songs prepared, but I have no idea which ones I'll sing. It's very fun, impromptu and intimate, and you'll learn much more about me than you ever wanted to."
In less than 10 years, Hilty has gone from Broadway understudy to major star. But on September 18, 2014 she took on the new role of mother, with the birth of her daughter, Viola Philomena.
"She's made all our priorities change. I'm now taking time to make business decisions about things that would take time away from her," she says. "I used to audition for everything since I love to work, but plays and musicals are huge time commitments, so I ask myself 'Do I really love the show?' It has to be really, really worth it."
Fortunately, she and her husband do enough gigs together that for the time being it's fairly easy to bring baby on board. "She's traveled with us to Puerto Rico, Toronto, Florida, Seattle, Atlanta... she's racked up a lot of frequent flyer miles already!"
One of her upcoming films is the top secret Untitled Warren Beatty Project, about an affair that Howard Hughes had with a younger woman. The stellar cast includes Lily Collins, Taissa Farmiga, Chace Crawford, Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen, Oliver Platt, and Beatty as Hughes.
Asked about the film, Hilty replies: "I can't tell you much, because we weren't even allowed to read the script! I play one of Howard Hughes' actresses and I do get to do some singing. I know he's been working on it for a long time, and the cast he's assembled is amazing."
Hilty is a tireless supporter of LGBT causes, appearing at fundraisers including the GLAAD Media Awards, Trevor Live, both the New York and California AIDS Walks, and a benefit for the Desert AIDS Project.
"I've been involved ever since I first became aware of AIDS as a teenager in Seattle," she says. "I wanted to do something for the AIDS Foundation there, so I volunteered and I licked stamps. It was something I just had to do. Now the best way for me to contribute is to perform at fundraisers and help raise money and awareness for these great organizations."
She has experienced backlash for supporting LGBT causes, "But in strange and stupid ways, like name-calling on Twitter. Anyone who has a problem with it is not worth my time," she says. "It's hard not to respond, but if you spend time focusing on it, you're just egging them on. It's not worth my time to battle trolls on the Internet."
Megan Hilty as Ivy Lynn in NBC's Smash.
We asked Hilty for the most memorable moment from her signature roles.
Wicked: "My Broadway debut was going on as an understudy opposite Idina Menzel right after she won her Tony. I was freaking out in the dressing room, I was so nervous. She put her hands on my shoulders and said, 'Let's go out there and make the show our own tonight.' I'll never forget how kind, generous and supportive she was. She deserves every bit of acclaim that she's gotten."
9 to 5: "I did all of the readings while they were developing the show so I spent three years working with Dolly Parton. When she taught me the song 'Backwoods Barbie,' she'd sing it with me, then I'd sing it back to her. I wish to God that I'd taped those sessions, but I guess I was too nervous to think of it. Then she recorded the song!"
Smash: "When we were filming the 'National Pastime' number for the pilot, I thought, 'Oh my God, this is my job! I'm the luckiest person on the planet!'That job was everything I ever wanted: to play a character like Ivy Lynn, to play Marilyn Monroe, to work with Anjelica Huston, and play Bernadette Peters' daughter... There were so many great things for me about that show."
Smash ended after its second season, and wildly mixed reactions from critics and viewers. "You have to know that you're never going to please everybody," she says. "That's not in your control. I learned that the hard way with Wicked and 9 to 5. I'm not Kristen Chenoweth. I'm not Dolly Parton."
"All I can do is the best job that I possibly can, and be the best that I can possibly be."
For the latest news on Megan Hilty visit her official website. Tickets for her performance on February 7 for the Broadway @ The Nourse Concert Series are available here or call (415) 392-4400.