Megan Hilty is the
antithesis of Ivy Lynn.
Best known for her starring role in NBC’s criminally short-lived Broadway drama Smash, Hilty couldn’t be further from Ivy’s entitled diva. Last Tuesday (May 3), the same day that she received her very first (and well-deserved) Tony nomination (Best Featured Actress in a Play for Noises Off), Hilty opened her new 2-week musical residency at the Café Carlyle with nothing more than a passing acknowledgment of the career milestone.
“We closed Noises Off six weeks ago so this was the furthest thing from my mind,” the 35-year-old modestly told the intimate crowd. But from the moment Hilty walked on stage with her instantly showstopping rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” her enormous talent was on full display.
Hilty explained that her set would be a tribute to one of her idols, Rosemary Clooney. She linked her first song to this theme by telling a cute story about how Ethel Merman once spotted Clooney in the audience during a performance of Gypsy on Broadway. As she walked down the aisle of the theater during “Roses,” she let out an adlibbed, “Hey Rosie!” Clooney was so amused by this that she incorporated the song into her concerts from there on out.
Hilty’s adoration and admiration for Clooney shone as she talked about what inspired the legendary cabaret singer to record the songs she was performing. She even read aloud a couple of passages from Clooney’s “sensational” autobiography that she found particularly stirring – including one that concluded, “It would be so freeing to shed the burden of someone else’s blame.”
With this, Hilty went into Irving Berlin’s heartbreaking “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me.” Her melancholy and haunting take on the song showcased a vulnerability that fortified her strength as an actor. She spoke to the audience about how she believes that there are three stages of anger after a breakup – anger at the other person, anger at yourself for putting up with that person, and anger at love in general. But luckily, “I haven’t felt that way in a long time,” she added.
Hilty’s husband of three years, singer/songwriter Brian Gallagher, was one of the musicians that made up her 4-piece band. As the guitarist, Gallagher played alongside his wife (and even sang a duet with her on the adorable “I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket”) with the same look of awe that every audience member had anytime that Hilty started to show off the extraordinary things that she can do with her voice.
Throughout the evening, Hilty divulged more snippets of her and Gallagher’s love story. She introduced songs like “I Get Along Without You Very Well” with descriptors like, “this is exactly how I felt about him” when they first started dating and Gallagher went off to be in the Jekyll & Hyde national tour.
Hilty resisted her future husband at first, but it didn’t take long for her to realize that she “didn’t know that someone like this existed and that what was happening between us was real.” She followed that declaration of love with a moving rendition of the sweet “Tenderly.”
As the audience got to know Hilty better through her charming rapport, she interwove songs as “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “I Wish You Love” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” She consistently delivered master class-worthy vocal performances that highlighted how much of a testament it is to her many gifts that her first Tony nomination is for a non-singing part.
Joining Hilty for a duet on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” was her music director and pianist, Matt Cusson. During a segment in which Hilty introduced and shared “fun facts” about each member of the band (i.e. “we have a baby together” about Gallagher), she showcased just how far they’ve all come over the past several years. The first time that she and Cusson sang together, for example, they were standing underneath a rollercoaster at Hershey Park and would have to pause the song every time a rollercoaster passed by. Fast forward to this past week when they launched their third residency at the iconic Café Carlyle together (along with the rest of the same band).
Hilty declared “Count Your Blessings” to be Clooney’s “anthem,” not only because she knew that the song was very important to her, but also because of all the “ups and downs” she had been through. For Hilty, the song resonated in a whole new way when she gave birth to her daughter and firstborn, Viola Philomena. Her emotional delivery made that connection immediately clear.
To transition into some Smash material, Hilty told the audience about a friend who she and Clooney had in common: composer Marc Shaiman. Shaiman played piano for Clooney in her later years, and was one of the main writers of a large portion of the music on Smash – including all of the songs she sang that evening. The crowd roared for her stunning medley of “Don’t Forget Me” and “Let Me Be Your Star,” and the Liza Minnelli-esque “They Just Keep Moving The Line.” Say what you want about Smash, but one thing that was totally undebatable was that Hilty sang the hell out of every song she had on that show. In person, it’s even better.
“They Just Keep Moving The Line” also happens to be one of the songs featured on Hilty’s new album, Megan Hilty Live At The Café Carlyle. Recorded during her previous residency, the diverse record also features classics like “The Man That Got Away,” “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” and “Get Happy.” Ranging from standards to showtunes to Smash, the album delivers on all fronts by giving a well-rounded collection of the things Hilty is most known for.
If Megan Hilty has something in common with her Smash character Ivy Lynn, it may soon be a Tony win her first time up at bat. And with a talent as colossal as hers, you know she’ll be stepping up to the plate many, many more times.
Catch Megan Hilty at the Café Carlyle, now through May 14th. And click here to purchase her new album, Megan Hilty Live At The Café Carlyle.
PHOTOS | DAVID ANDRAKO
May 3 through May 14
Tuesday through Friday @ 8:45 pm
Saturdays @ 8:45 pm & 10:45 pm
Reservations for Café Carlyle performances are available through TicketWeb and may be purchased by clicking here.
The golden age of New York cabaret comes alive each night at Café Carlyle. With an authentic Manhattan backdrop and a soundtrack that is classic cabaret, Café Carlyle is known for headlining incredible talents; including Sutton Foster, Judy Collins and Woody Allen, who regularly appears to jam with the Eddy Davis New Orleans jazz band. Music has been an essential part of The Carlyle, and it is on spectacular display at the Café Carlyle since its debut in 1955.