About Megan Hilty
It's rare for any performer to go straight from college to working alongside some of the greatest names in acting and music. But in a just a few short years, Megan Hilty has become one of the most accomplished young talents in Hollywood, with extensive film, television, and stage credits.
Megan was born in Bellevue, Washington on March 29, 1981. She was drawn to music from a young age, in part because, as she tells it, she didn't have enough of it in her life:
"My mom read this article about how tone-deaf mothers should never sing to their babies, and so she refused to sing to me. And I became obsessed with it when I was little, because I always wanted her to sing to me and with me. But she would always play these recordings for me, and so I became obsessed with all these different kinds of voices."
At first, Megan was interested in becoming an opera performer. After learning more about the rigors of operatic training and the limited opportunities for younger performers, she decided to switch her focus to theatre. She performed in youth theatre programs in her area and attended the Washington Academy of Performing Arts Conservatory High School in Redmond, Washington. After graduating, Megan moved to Southern Oregon and spent two years waiting tables and working odd jobs while performing in shows such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Hello Dolly!, Suds, and My Fair Lady (as Eliza Doolittle) at night.
'I graduated early, I was seventeen and I'd gotten all my real high school credits out of the way...and I got a show down in Southern Oregon...so I left a little early and went down there and decided that I wanted to take a couple years and see if I could support myself doing this and see if this is really what I wanted to do or dedicate four years of my life to training for it. I did community theatre and dinner theatre and I worked retail. I was actually doing laundry late one night with one of the actors at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and he said 'You need to go to Carnegie Mellon University.'"
Megan took his advice, and was accepted to the theatre program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She performed in a variety of college and regional productions during this time, including Carnegie Mellon School of Drama's production of Kiss of the Spider Woman (as Molina's mother) and the City Theatre production of Cafe Puttanesca. She won the National Society of Arts and Letters competition for musical theatre in 2004, performing "I Can Cook Too" from On the Town and "Simple" from Nine, and also won an "Excellence in Performing a Musical Theatre Ballad" award from the Jerry Herman/ASCAP organization. She received CMU's Charles Willard Award and graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor's degree in Theatre.
About two months before her graduation from CMU, Megan performed in an agent showcase. She was signed by an agent who sent her to audition for the role of Audrey in the touring company of Little Shop of Horrors. She landed the part, but soon learned that the production had decided to move in another direction and that she probably would not be staying in the role. The agents asked her to travel to New York again, this time to audition for the role of G(a)linda, the role made famous by Kristin Chenoweth in Wicked.
"I was sitting in my little hotel room the night before...I didn't even think I could be funny, really. (I thought) maybe if I just make them laugh two times I can feel like I did my job. Little did I know it was the final callback - I was the wild card. I walked in the room and Joe Mantello shakes my hand. Stephen Schwartz is sitting there, Winnie Holzman is there...everybody (from the Wicked creative team) is in this room."
Her audition lasted eight minutes. She was on an overnight bus trip back to Pittsburgh when she got the news: she had been hired as the Broadway company's Glinda standby.
After a year as standby (during which she made her Broadway debut opposite Tony winner Idina Menzel), Megan took over as principal Glinda in the production in May 2005, working with a cast that included Shoshana Bean as Elphaba, Rue McClanahan as Madam Morrible, and Ben Vereen as the Wizard. Eden Espinosa took over the role of Elphaba for the last four months of Megan's run.
Upon completing her run in Wicked on Broadway, Megan performed in the TheatreWorks production of Vanities: The Musical at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts in Mountain View, California. She played the role of Mary, one of a trio of sorority sisters dealing with coming of age in the '60s and '70s.
Then it was back to Wicked, this time with the touring company. With Shoshana Bean, also a native of the Pacific Northwest, Megan performed the role of Glinda in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, and Toronto, Canada. While she was finishing up her run as Glinda on tour and preparing to open the Los Angeles production, she got a call from Joe Mantello, the director of Wicked. He was directing a workshop of 9 to 5, a musical based on the iconic movie, that was being written by Patricia Resnick (co-author of the film). Dolly Parton was writing the music, and Mantello wanted Megan to play Doralee, Parton's role from the film. Megan found that the most daunting part of the role was walking in Dolly Parton's shoes.
"I thought, 'Oh God, I'll never live up to her expectations.' But all those things went out the window immediately. Dolly has been nothing but supportive and gracious - something that started out so scary turned into an experience that I'll cherish my whole life."
After the initial 9 to 5 workshop, Megan joined Eden Espinosa as lead in Wicked's standing LA production at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Megan stayed with the production from its opening in February 2007 until May 18, 2008. During this time period, Megan and former Wicked co-star Shoshana Bean developed a variety show called the Meg an' Sho Show. She also recorded the song "The Dance" for composer Scott Alan's album Keys, which is available on iTunes. Megan made guest appearances on numerous televisions series: Shark, The Closer, CSI, Desperate Housewives, The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, and Ugly Betty, and provided the singing voice for Snow White in Shrek The Third.
In September 2008, Megan starred in 9 to 5: The Musical's world premiere in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre, alongside Allison Janney as Violet (the Lily Tomlin role) and Stephanie J. Block as Judy (originally played by Jane Fonda). Marc Kudisch played the villainous Mr. Hart (the role originated by Dabney Coleman). It was soon announced that the show would be moving to Broadway in April 2009. In between the LA and Broadway runs of 9 to 5, Megan returned to Wicked LA to close out the show's nearly two year run. Megan spoke about her years with Wicked in an April 2009 interview with Playbill.com:
"(Playing Glinda) was horribly daunting because Kristin Chenoweth is such a genius and she set the bar so high. It instantly had this cult following, almost, where the audiences were packed with people who were expecting you to hit those places that she had set. So it was nerve-wracking, to say the least, but also one of the most fun jobs I've ever had in my life. I did the role for about four-and-a-half years, and I really think that I could do it for another ten because it's written so well. She becomes a completely different person by the end of the show so, as an actor, is gives you so much stuff to work with."
Megan returned to New York in February 2009 to begin rehearsals for 9 to 5's Broadway debut. Dolly Parton's first Broadway musical opened (after three weeks of previews) on April 30, 2009 at the Marquis Theatre. Megan was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Actress in a Musical, a Drama League Award, and an Ovation Award for her work in the show.
On September 6, 2009, 9 to 5 completed its Broadway run. In November 2009, Megan made appearances in Wicked Divas with the Cincinnati Pops (her symphonic debut), and participated a staged reading of Richard Rodgers' Two by Two for the Reprise Theatre Company.
Megan had a busy 2010, with roles in the films Bitter Feast, The Happiest Man Alive, and What Happens Next, and a guest starring role on the series Bones. She made her solo concert debut at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in New York on April 26, and recorded the role of the China Princess in the animated feature film Dorothy of Oz, which is scheduled for release in August 2012. She also performed in the concert David Foster and Friends alongside Seal, Donna Summer, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Martina McBride, Lara Fabian, Ruben Studdard, Ne-Yo, and many more. The concert aired as part of PBS's Great Performances series in 2011.
In 2011, Megan made two guest appearances on ABC Family's Melissa and Joey in the role of "Tiffany," and in 2012, she debuted as a series regular in the Steven Spielberg-produced series Smash, which also features Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston, Christian Borle, Katharine McPhee, and Jack Davenport. The show airs Mondays 10/9 central on NBC.
As for the future? Megan has mentioned Sweeney Todd's Mrs. Lovett and the Witch in Into the Woods as dream roles. "I would like to do everything, and I don't think that's too ambitious," she said in a May 2009 interview with the New York Post.
With a talent as big as she has, that doesn't seem a stretch.
Quotes from Seth's Chatterbox, May 28, 2009; "Diva Talk: Chatting with 9 to 5's Megan Hilty" (Playbill.com); "Megan Hilty's Motto: 'What Would Dolly Do?'" (New York Post).