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Interview: MEGAN HILTY AT Universal Preservation Hall

Megan Hilty, theater extraordinaire, is coming to Upstate New York for an intimate holiday spectacular!

Interview: MEGAN HILTY AT Universal Preservation Hall

Megan Hilty, theater extraordinaire, is coming to Upstate New York for an intimate holiday spectacular! She will be in Saratoga Springs at the Universal Preservation Hall on Saturday, December 3rd.

BroadwayWorld: Megan! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. I would like to start with some background! Could you tell me a little bit about yourself for me?

Megan: Sure! Gosh, where to begin? I'm from Seattle, I started out wanting to sing from a really early age and I thought opera was the way to go. I trained classically for a long time, but also did youth theater with Bellevue Youth Theater where I grew up. I ultimately decided that musical theater fit my personality better than the classical world. I went to a performing arts high school in Redmond, Washington, then took a couple years off and moved to southern Oregon. My mom was really supportive of taking a gap year (in my case, it was two!). I did every awful job you can imagine to support my theater habit, and it was a point in my life where I needed to prove to myself that my heart was in the right place - that I didn't just want to...to just be famous. I was very aware that the glamour was non-existent in the world that I was choosing. I knew that it was gonna be really hard, but those two years kind of proved that I was ready to do it for the right reasons. I ended up going to Carnegie Mellon University, and spent four years in Pittsburgh. Through the Showcase there, I ended up meeting Bernie Chelsea's office and Craig Burns is the one that brought me in. So, I kind of credit him with my entire career - just always like, thank you, thank you for my career, thank you! He brought me in initially and ultimately I got called in to do the Glinda replacement audition [for WICKED], I think kind of on a whim. And I got to stand by! So, I spent four and a half years of my life playing Glinda in New York, L.A., a little bit on the road... and they were nice enough to let me do it in my hometown, Seattle. I did several other Broadway shows and other theatrical ventures in New York, D.C. and stuff, like tv and voiceover and concert work. I guess that's kind of me in a nutshell!

BWW: Wow, you have done everything! You said that you started in opera, and that you realized theater was more your personality. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Megan: Yeah! I went to a young women's apprenticeship program with the San Francisco Opera and they chose about 16 girls around the country...it actually might have been in the world, because I think there were a couple of young women from different countries as well. I don't know...this was a long time ago. But, I was one of those 16 girls. I spent several weeks doing intensive workshops. I call it Opera Camp - but they get really upset with me [laughing] as you can imagine. I had a great time; it was amazing. I'm a huge fan of all of those opera stars who would come and speak with us. I just kept hearing over and over again that we wouldn't work until our mid-thirties because that's when the female voice matures. It felt very much like the Olympics to an athlete, I would imagine, because, like an Olympic athlete, so many classical singers spend so much of their time training, and a fraction of that time actually performing. I was like, no thanks. I just didn't want to ever be that precious about my voice. I didn't ever want to get to a place where I can't speak during the day because I need to take care of my instrument - and I say that with respect. I respect people that do that and feel that way. I just can't operate like that. So, I was like, musical theater seems like a better fit for me.

Interview: MEGAN HILTY AT Universal Preservation Hall

BWW: When you were deciding to transition and make that pivot into theater, did you doubt yourself?

Megan: It was never a question of will I have a career in the arts? It was just what am I going to do for my career in the arts? It could be onstage; it could be offstage. I just knew very much that I wanted to be a part of something that made people feel the way you feel when you're sitting in an audience. I remember very distinctly, my mom took us to see a lot of theater when we were little, and I saw the tour of JEKYLL AND HYDE. I remember sitting in the audience at intermission, feeling like I don't know what I'm feeling right now, but this is so exciting and I want to make people feel like this too, you know? I want to be a part of that somehow. I don't know in what capacity, but I will be in the performing arts somehow. Luckily I have parents that were like, great! As long as you're passionate about it and you're willing to work really hard for it, cool. We're not going to stand in your way. They were very supportive without being pushy. Like, you know, "backstage parents"...what is it, what's that called? Is it...I can't remember.

BWW: I know what you're getting at.

Megan: Yeah, like the pushy show parents.

BWW: It's really beautiful that you had people in your corner to keep you going. To change topics a bit, I see that you also have taught masterclasses. What is a piece of advice that you love to give to students as someone who grew up in the industry as well?

Interview: MEGAN HILTY AT Universal Preservation Hall Megan: The two pieces of advice that I give people: do everything you can. Meaning, if you are a performer, you should also do some jobs where you build costumes, clean the theater or usher, do sets backstage, [be] on crew. Do other jobs in the theater so that you get a really, really good understanding of the fact that, even though the lights are on you as an actor, you are just a small puzzle piece in a giant puzzle, you know what I mean? It takes an army to put on a show and I think it's really important to understand that, without all of the other pieces, that puzzle doesn't work. On top of that, I encourage people to do competitions, do community theater and do everything. Do everything and be nice to everybody.

BWW: Absolutely. That kindness takes you to exactly where you want to go.

Megan: Yeah. That's all I say because everybody has such a different path in this business. There's no one way. There is no right way to do [it] other than to just make sure your heart's in the right place, and be nice to people.

BWW: Have you ever done any of those behind-the-scenes jobs? What is your favorite?

Megan: I did a lot of it in the youth theater growing up. We did a lot of stuff other than being onstage. It was [also] part of the curriculum at Carnegie Mellon University, which is why I learned so much by doing all the other jobs, you know? I feel like it's really important. [But,] I wasn't particularly good at any of them. You don't want me running your sets and stuff...

BWW: Then, I guess it's a good thing that we have your talents on the stage!

Megan: [LAUGHING]

BWW: Let's talk about your upcoming concert! I'm wondering if you could give us some insight on the event in Saratoga Springs on Saturday, December 3rd at Universal Preservation Hall?

Megan: Yeah, this concert is a long time coming. Actually, the first time I was supposed to do this concert was supposed to be March 13th, 2020...and we all know what happened that day. I was going to miss my son's birthday to do this concert - [but] everything shut down and it was rescheduled. I believe this concert has been rescheduled three times because of Covid! It's been a long time coming. It wasn't originally supposed to be a holiday show, but it ended up in December. So, we're doing a holiday concert, which is really special. It's gonna be me and my and my music director, Matt Cusson - he's one of our best friends, but he also was just nominated for a Grammy! We're really, really, really excited for him.

BWW: Wow! Congratulations to him!

Megan: He's doing great and he's an amazing singer/songwriter/producer in his own right. Normally, we travel with our whole band - but it's going to be just me and Matt...very intimate. And all of our holiday stuff, which we haven't done in years! We built this show around the holiday album that [my band and I] did years ago. It's one of the things I'm most proud of. There's just so many great memories attached to it. I'm really happy to be revisiting all of these songs and ushering in the holiday season with all of these arrangements that I love.

Interview: MEGAN HILTY AT Universal Preservation Hall BWW: Do you have a favorite song on the set list?

Megan: I think my favorite [is] a cover of River [that we do]! In my book, it is a Christmas song. I just think it's breathtakingly beautiful - the lyrics anyway, not necessarily me doing it! But the song itself, the lyrics and how it's paired with the music is just so gorgeous. I think that might be my favorite. I reserve [the right to] change my mind at any moment, but right now that's my favorite.

BWW: How do you prepare for a concert like this, whether it be a holiday concert, or just any concert that you perform in general?

Megan: You know, for me, I always have to keep going over the lyrics. That's a lot of words! A 75-to-90 minute set. That's a lot! [Laughing] I know all these songs, [but] I haven't done them in a long time. The great thing about Matt is that he doesn't read music, so we just kind of follow each other, you know what I mean? Like, I know he's got me if I go up on something, he just kind of goes with me. Hopefully if I do mess up on something, nobody's gonna know.

BWW: That's incredible. I am looking forward to seeing it.

Megan: I think this concert is going to be really special for many reasons - one being that I've been looking forward to it for literally years, right? And now I get to do the holiday stuff so there's a silver lining to it being rescheduled a million times!

BWW: I hope that this anticipation catapults you forward for a very successful show! I think it's going to be incredible and everyone who gets the chance to go see it absolutely should!

Megan: Thank you so much!

See Megan Hilty performing at Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs on Saturday, December 3rd. Tickets may be found through www.proctors.org



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Interview: MEGAN HILTY AT Universal Preservation HallInterview: MEGAN HILTY AT Universal Preservation Hall
December 3, 2022

Megan Hilty, theater extraordinaire, is coming to Upstate New York for an intimate holiday spectacular! She will be in Saratoga Springs at the Universal Preservation Hall on Saturday, December 3rd.