Although millions enjoyed watching Megan Hilty battle to play Marilyn Monroe in a fictional musical on NBC’s Smash this past season, recently she’s been racking up headlines for her smash performance in last months’s Encores revival of Gentleman Prefer Blondes. Not only did she receive raves from hard-to-please critics, she also went into the studio to record a cast album of the iconic songs, including the unforgettable “Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend.”
We caught up with the bubbly, effusive (and busty) Hilty—who was just in town to sing with Cheyenne Jackson at Monday’s “Barack on Broadway” event—as she was recording her solo album in Austin, Texas, to see if we might see her on Broadway anytime soon (in Dolly Parton’s anticipated musical perhaps?) or who she might be rooting for as the Tony Awards approach this Sunday. And despite all the speculation of who she might or might not be dating, she made one thing clear: Just don’t call her a cougar.
Out: I feel like I'm part of some weird incestuous Broadway circle because I was just working with Cheyenne Jackson the other day as he recorded an acoustic version of his latest single, I was trying to convince Jane Krakowski to invite you to sing at her cabaret this week, and I recently interviewed Christian Borle for our June issue. Now I'm finally talking to you.
Megan Hilty: Yay! All my friends.
So can you tell me about how the studio recording for Gentleman Prefer Blondes came about?
I think they do this a lot with Encores; they record the show live and then release a very limited number of copies. After it was received so well...
You mean after you were called a ‘10’ by Ben Brantley in the Times?
[Laughs] I guess. [Laughs] Well, then they decided they really wanted to invest the time and money, and that was great since that was how we could really serve this beautiful music.
Was it part of some push to have you do it on Broadway?
I don’t know, yeah, there’s talk of it moving to Broadway but I have no idea. I don’t even when my next break is. I don’t know if it would be possible for me to do it. The show is amazing, and it needs to be back on Broadway no matter who plays that amazing role. I think it’s an incredible musical and the music—oh, I mean, oh my god. Everybody has to hear it.
Now, I wondered, was it odd to you that there was this sort of mirroring of you doing this Marilyn role in Smash and then you doing this role that Marilyn did in the movie version of Blondes? Or was that part of the idea from the get go?
Well, I think initially the gimmick was there. But here’s the thing: I had a meeting with the director, John Rando, who’s the most incredible man on the face of the earth, and we talked about how to really make it my own. Because, the thing is, that the character is not Marilyn Monroe. She just happened to be one of the people who played it. Carol Channing is the person who originated it on Broadway. And I can’t picture two different people doing it. You know what I mean? It’s wildly different interpretations. So we went into it thinking of it as my own, while paying homage to the great ladies, and how they made it iconic in their own ways. So I tried to be in-between the two I guess.
Do you mean in-between the comedy as well as the sexiness?
So you’re currently in Austin working on recording your first solo album, correct?
Yeah, today, like I’m in Austin recording to-DAY.
Is that going to be original music, standards, what?
It’s all music from the movies. It’s kind of—so far—very FUN [laughs], an eclectic mix of the big, grand, sweeping theme songs and songs from more independent films. There’s a really cool mix of styles, but they are all linked together through my producer Andy Zulla. So I’m really excited about it because they are all songs that are really familiar but with my twist on them.
So you worked on making them your own?
Yeah, Andy, who I worked with on Smash with all last year, he does everything. He arranged them. So we’ve been working together on how we can put our stamp on it.
I assume you can’t tell us any of the songs. Even your favorite?
I can’t. There's licensing and all of that business.
Well, I was wondering since you had this experience on Monday with “Barack on Broadway” did you get to meet the president at all? How was that experience?
We did. It wasamazing. Not only did we get to meet the president, we got to meet Bill Clinton as well. And we got to shake their hands and take a picture with them, each individually. It was amazing. I have never been so star struck in my life.
I’ve heard both of them have such charisma.
They do, they do. And they both just...I don’t know. I respect both of them so deeply—for what they stand for and what they've done for our country. I don’t know, to me that's much more, I'm much more starstruck by someone who has done a fancy movie [Laughs]. For me, it was a big night.
Speaking of stars and legends, you obviously have met Dolly Parton, and you portrayed her, or a version of her, in 9 to 5 on Broadway. There’s talk of her writing a musical based on her life. Have you guys discussed it, do you think you’d want to play that role or be considered?
Oh gosh. First of all, that musical is going to be amazing. If you know anything about her life, it’s going to be fantastic. I love her songs. Her songs are so smart. And they’re so catchy, and they are soDolly. And everybody loves Dolly. It would be an honor to get an audition for a show like that. But I’m sure there are plenty of ladies who are getting in line for that.
Well, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for you. And finally, the Tony’s are this weekend, so I assume you'll be there?
No, i’m going to be in Austin. My producer is here, so it’s much easier for me to come down here and work in his studio.
Oh, I wondered if you were going, who you might be going with. I know everybody likes to have rumors about who you’re dating these days it seems.
[LAUGHS] I know. People think I’m dating teenagers. [Laugh]. Listen, I can’t be a cougar at age 31. It just can’t happen. [LAUGHS]
So you’re going to miss the Tony’s, but is there anyone you’re gunning for? Or since you have so many friends in shows, you can’t show favorites? I personally love Peter and the Starcatcher and Christian Borle, your Smash costar, in it. But I know there’s a lot of competition.
Yeah, I know, but Christian’s my guy. I’ll root for him my whole life. Have you seen the show?
Yes, I’ve seen it a few times.
Oh my god, it’s unbelievable. I’m such a huge fan of that show. Everyone in that show is amazing. So I don’t know, I’m so happy for all my friends who are gettign recognized this year. I just see it as a big celebration for all of their hard work.