BWW Review: Actress/Singer MEGAN HILTY Rocks VPAC
Broadway and TV actress/singer Megan Hilty performed an invigorating and stellar show at Valley Performing Arts Center at CSUN, Northridge (VPAC) on Thursday, September 24 at 8 pm to a packed audience of her fans. Hilty is best remembered for playing Glinda in Wicked for four and a half years - she replaced Kristin Chenoweth on Broadway - and also for premiering the role of Doralee Rhodes - played in the film by Dolly Parton - in the musical of 9 to 5 at the Ahmanson and on Broadway. She starred as well in NBC's musical Smash for two seasons to great acclaim. as actress Ivy Lynn, who creates a Marilyn Monroe character for a fictional musical called Bombshell.
Tall and statuesque, pretty Hilty is no dumb blonde as she took the stage by storm with the belty, rousing opener "Come Rain or Come Shine". Hilty interspersed her 90-minute set with quite a lot of patter about her career and her personal life. Her husband, guitarist/song writer Brian Gallagher was sitting on a stool to her left and was introduced after a couple of numbers. Gallagher and Hilty have been married two years and have a little daughter born last year. They reside in New York, but Hilty sang the praises of Los Angeles, as she has worked here a good deal of her career which began around 2005 with Wicked. She told a scrumptious backstage story about auditioning for the revival of Little Shop of Horrors in 2004, getting the part of Audrey and then losing it when Anthony Rapp was cast as Seymour. They told her she didn't match him age-wise. She was too young. Ah, the pangs of show biz! But soon after losing Little Shop - thank heavens for us! - she was cast as the Glinda understudy in Wicked, and the rest is history. Gallagher and Hilty proceeded to perform a lilting "Suddenly Seymour". He has a rather quiet restrained vocal style, the perfect match for her big, bold sultry delivery. No copying of Ellen Greene's little high-pitch for Audrey. Hilty made it her own - and that is what sets Hilty apart as a great singing star, regardless of she sings - she is unfettered, unadorned, totally grounded, using her own vitality, charm and tremendous vocal power, to sell the song.
Other highlights of the set, backed by sensational musicians Gallagher, Matt Cusson at the piano, Ryan Hoagland on drums and Dennis Keefe on bass, included: a zingy combo of "I Love Paris" and "C'est Magnifique", a gorgeous rendition of "A Place Called Home", which she lovingly related to her husband and daughter, "Let's Misbehave", followed by "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" in a delightfully casual duet with Matt Cusson at the piano. "Autumn Leaves" was combined beautifully with the plaintive "When October Goes". Signature tunes "Popular" from Wicked and "Backwoods Barbie" from 9 to 5 The Musical were of course on tap. There was a terrific medley from Smash: "That's Life", "Second Hand Baby Grande" - with a touching anecdote about how Marilyn Monroe acquired the piano from her mother and cherished it all her life - and the popular "Let Me Be Your Star". She included an infectious rendition of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which she had previously sung at Encores, followed by a jubilant "Get Happy". Her finale was with the spectacular high school group from Burbank In Sync, who opened the show (review below)*. Together they raised the roof off the auditorium with an unforgettable "For Good" from Wicked.
Watch for Megan Hilty as she continues her tour! Possessing both outer and inner beauty, an amazing voice that takes on so naturally the style of each song she sings and an uber warmth and love of her audience, Hilty has it all ...and captures completely what the word star is all about.
with husband Brian Gallagher
*What an exciting opening act! In Sync is a group of 60 vocalists, tenth through twelfth graders from Burbank High School who perform all over Southern California and across the US in their role as ambassadors of civic pride and goodwill. Under the direction of Brett Carroll and Randy Sage and choreographed by April James and Sage, this immensely talented group have a huge repertoire of music.
On tap were: "I Surrender", "Stand Up and Make a Change", "Hit the Road, Jack" and a "Who's Lovin' You" medley which included: "Last Dance", "That's the Way" and "You Should Be Dancing". Standing out among them was guest Reed Shannon who plays little Michael Jackson on tour in Motown the Musical. He really rocked!
Indeed these kids do move, groove and deliver the goods thanks to their great talent and the energetic moves of the dynamite choreographers. They fill the stage with love and joy. It was a fantastic 20-minute set preceding Megan Hilty's awesome appearance...and they even got the chance to sing behind her on "For Good" at the very end of the evening. What an electric show! Bravo to one and all!
(bottom photo credit: Stan Mazin)