Football and musicals rarely overlap, but it was eight years ago this month – in the coveted slot right after the 2012 Super Bowl – that Smash, the NBC series about developing a Broadway musical, premiered with great fanfare and loads of advance marketing.
“I can’t believe it’s been that long already,” actress Megan Hilty reminisced about the show that showcased her talents in front of a prime-time audience.
Hilty was already a known commodity in theater circles for her Broadway turns as Glinda in Wicked and Doralee Rhodes (the Dolly Parton character) in 9 to 5: the Musical, but it was Smash, and its millions of TV viewers, that brought Hilty to a new level of celebrity.
The show-within-a-show featured Hilty’s character as the lead in a musical about Marilyn Monroe being developed for Broadway. It only lasted for two years on TV, but it still resonates in the hearts of theater-lovers and in Hilty’s own life.
“Smash was everything to me,” she says. “I got to be the first person to voice all this incredible music and work with amazing people like Bernadette Peters. I’m grateful for it every single day.”
Smash fans will be pleased this weekend when Hilty appears February 13-15 at the Kennedy Center with fellow performer Cheyenne Jackson in a concert titled NSO Pops: Broadway and Beyond with Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson. Hilty promises that several Smash songs are included in the program, along with many other songs from Hilty and Jackson’s past shows, and a few songs they discovered together.
The concert is the brainchild of Hilty and Jackson – another performer who does double duty on TV (30 Rock) and Broadway (Finian’s Rainbow). Longtime friends, the pair initially bonded over their similar career paths, their shared roots in the Pacific Northwest, and as parents of young children. They got along so well that by 2018, they were looking for ways to work together artistically.
“We thought, hey, if no one is going to cast us in anything together, why don’t we make our own show?” Hilty recalls. “I hate to call it a labor of love, because it is so fun it doesn’t really feel like labor, but it really is a project that comes from the heart and what could be more perfect for Valentine’s Day?”
Hilty and Jackson have performed variations of this concert in a few other cities, with Hilty’s husband, Brian Gallagher, playing in the band at select performances. Each concert features a hand-selected menu of songs and stories designed to fit the season and the venue. Love will be in the air for the Kennedy Center shows, as the pair have hand-picked a selection of heartfelt songs and enlisted composer Curtis McKonly to create arrangements for the National Symphony Orchestra to accompany the singers. Many of the songs will have lush, symphonic orchestrations for the very first time.
“Every single thing about this concert is happening because we want it to happen and are having fun with it,” Hilty adds. “The songs are deeply personal to both of us and I’m so happy to be sharing the stage with someone that I adore. I hope that audience will feel that love as well.”
Hilty is no stranger to the Kennedy Center. Fans will remember her recent appearance as Audrey (alongside Josh Radnor’s Seymour) in the Broadway Center Stage production of Little Shop of Horrors.
Hilty describes performing in the semi-staged, short-run production as “A wild ride” and adds that she jumps at the chance to perform at the Kennedy Center. “Anytime someone calls me to work at the Kennedy Center I’m like, yes, I’m there!”
As for Hilty’s own version of the perfect Valentine’s Day? “My idea of Valentine’s Day is pretty boring,” she says. “My husband and I stay home with pizza and champagne. That’s our idea of a lovely evening!”
NSO Pops: Broadway and Beyond with Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson plays February 13 through 15, 2020 at the Kennedy Center – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or go online.