Hayden Thomas interviews "Smash" alum Megan Hilty
Broadway favourite Megan Hilty is currently treading the boards as Brooke Ashton in the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Michael Frayn's farcical comedy Noises Off, directed by Tony and Olivier nominee Jeremy Herrin, at the American Airlines Theatre until 13 March 2016.
She has also appeared on the Broadway stage as Glinda in hit musical Wicked (2005-6) and originated the role of Doralee Rhodes in 9 to 5: The Musical (2009). Off-Broadway she starred in the Encores! productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (2012) as Lorelei Lee and Annie Get Your Gun (2015) as Annie Oakley. She's perhaps best known for her leading TV role as Ivy Lynn in the Broadway-centric musical series "Smash" on NBC.
Our reporter Hayden Thomas (Twitter: @WestEndReporter!) caught up with Megan to see how she's coping with slamming doors and plates of sardines eight times a week on Broadway:
Hayden Thomas: Did you have a nice day off on Saturday during the snow blizzard?
Megan Hilty: Oh yes. Well, of course, I got all the way to the theatre before they told me the shows were cancelled, but it was fine for me because I live in the city. A lot of people who live outside the city though had a real trek to get there.
HT: What did you do with your day instead? Did you go for a little "winter warmer" somewhere? A little tipple to warm the cockles of your heart?
MH: (Laughs) It was a great day. My parents actually came in from Seattle the night before. They came to see the show. My husband (Brian Gallagher) had a show on Monday night and we have a baby, so they came in to see all those things. So we just had a day when we just hung out in our apartment and cooked and watched movies and played with the baby. It was great!
HT: And during an eight-show-a-week schedule, a day off like that is quite a blessing once in a while.
MH: Yes! It's always nice to have a little break.
HT: And now it's all engines go again with the Broadway revival of 'Noises Off.' I also remember the West End revival from 2011-2012 fondly, which starred Celia Imrie.
MH: I saw the same production in London a few years ago! Our set is a bit different. I have a ladder that I go up and down in my underwear. There's a spiral staircase and the set is a little wider than normal, with a giant window in the middle of it - both upstairs and downstairs - which caused a little bit of a problem, but we figured it out.
HT: Now, you mentioned being in your underwear. I must say you're looking very well and you're the only scantily-clad actor on stage. Do you ever get embarrassed about that sort of thing or is it just commonplace for you now?
MH: Well, it's funny because when I saw the show in London a couple of years ago, I thought to myself I've always been a fan of the play, but I never thought I would be in it because I never saw myself in any of the roles. I especially thought I'd never play a role who wears as little clothing as Brooke does... ever! I never thought that was going to be an option. Getting ready for this - I don't know if it was the craziest decision or smartest decision to sign on for this a year after having had a baby - I had a lot of weight to lose. But there was a lot of motivation, knowing that I was going to be in front of all these people with not much clothing on. I worked really hard and then right before we had our first audience, I said to myself you have to be confident with where you are. It doesn't matter what size you are right now. Forget about that part and be comfortable because if you're insecure about this at all, nobody's gonna pay attention to the performance. They're gonna be worried for you and they're not gonna know why (laughs)... So I just focused on the confidence part and forgot about the rest.
HT: Well, you've done a fantastic job. And how's the British accent coming along?
MH: You know, I like to think that it's good (laughs)...
HT: Nobody has dared tell you otherwise...
MH: (Laughs) Right! I had a great time working with our amazing dialect coach Liz Smith. She's famous for teaching dialect. She teaches at Juilliard and she was really wonderful. It was something I panicked about actually before going into rehearsal. Very little is worse than going to a show with bad accents and dialects. It just takes you out of it immediately. I did panic a bit because they asked us to come to our first rehearsal fully memorised. I didn't want to memorise all my lines and ingrain them in my brain with a bad accent (laughs). (Director) Jeremy Herrin and Liz were both lovely sending me little YouTube clips for references to help me out with that before going into rehearsal.
HT: And how was the working relationship with Jeremy Herrin overall?
MH: We had a great time. We had a wonderful time in rehearsal. We always stopped though and felt bad for him because it must have been awful to hear a bunch of Americans - especially towards the beginning of rehearsal - butchering his British accent. But he was always very lovely and gentle with us in correcting our mistakes.
HT: So this is your first play on Broadway. Do you miss the singing aspect of being in a musical at all or are you happy to give the singing a rest for a little while?
MH: Nope. I don't miss it at all. It's really wonderful to not have to worry about my voice as much. When you're in a musical, you're constantly checking in with your voice and doing various vocal warm-ups to get ready. It's not as if I'm not taking care of my voice doing a play, it's just a different kind of maintenance. I also have concerts booked on Valentines Day weekend, where I've booked a weekend off from the show, and I have concerts right after we close, so I'll still be singing. I'm always singing. But it's nice not to have to do it eight times a week right now.
HT: Sounds just like me - I'm always singing too!... The only difference is not a single soul wants to listen to my singing!
MH: (Laughs) No! I don't believe that for a second!
HT: Oh I've butchered many a favourite show tune in my time, Megan, believe me! But back to this current Roundabout revival - What can audiences expect from 'Noises Off' overall?
MH: Just a good time! There are so many crazy and frankly awful things happening all over the world, but there is one place you can come and leave all your worries behind for about 2 and a half hours and just laugh. It's really wonderful to be a part of something that just brings joy to people and that's what you can expect if you come and see 'Noises Off' on Broadway.
HT: Now, I'm sure everyone who has ever interviewed you is a big fan of "Smash." I watched it religiously! Do you know what's the latest with the 'Bombshell' musical?
MH: I have no idea. I keep seeing press releases saying they're going to do something with it, but nobody has called me. I just have no idea.
HT: So you're finding out the same time as everyone else?
MH: Exactly! I'm just so happy though that all of that great music is going to have a life after "Smash." All of their songs are just amazing.
HT: And it must've been nice to reunite with cast member for the 'Bombshell' benefit concert last year?
MH: Yes, it really was. It was kinda magical to get back together again and do all those great numbers and get to do them live. We were very lucky to get to do that.
HT: Well, I'll certainly be crossing my fingers that we get to see you in 'Bombshell' on the Broadway stage in the not-too-distant future, but do you have any other dream roles in the meantime?
MH: I would love to play Mrs Lovett! I saw 'Sweeney Todd' the last time I went to London too and it was the best production of that musical I have ever seen! I was so blown away! Imelda Staunton was amazing!
HT: Preach! That was one of my favourite shows of the year too! Well, sadly we've come to the end now but it's been lovely chatting to you, Megan.
MH: Thank you! Likewise.
HT: And I wish you all the very best with the rest of the run of 'Noises Off'!