Megan Hilty
(© Tristan Fuge)
Megan Hilty
(© Tristan Fuge)
Megan Hilty has enchanted Broadway audiences in Wicked and 9 to 5, but she currently has the entire nation enthralled as chorus girl and wannabe Broadway superstar Ivy Lynn on the NBC hit musical series Smash, and can be heard on the series' first soundtrack album, due out on May 1. The versatile actress -- who will appear as Lorelei Lee in Encores! production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, May 9-13 at New York City Center -- took time from her busy schedule to speak with TheaterMania about Smash and its music.

THEATERMANIA: What has it been like having to learn a new song practically every week and then record it?
MEGAN HILTY: It's different with every piece of music. Some things Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman had to write or rewrite quickly, so we'd learn it in 24 hours and we'd be recording it. That was madness. And sometimes we had plenty of time to rehearse.

TM: So many of Ivy's songs sound like they were written just for you. Is that true?
MH: I don't know how much of the writing was really done for me, but I feel so honored to be the first voice of Marc and Scott's new music. They are so smart, and the songs for Smash work on so many different levels -- for the character of Marilyn Monroe and the musical we're putting on and the life of my character.

TM: In a lot of these songs, like "Mr & Mrs. Smith," you need to sound like Marilyn, yet also like Ivy/Megan. Is that difficult?
MH: I've learned to sing kind of like Marilyn, with that breathy, sultry sound. But that wouldn't carry on a big stage, so it makes sense that for a musical that I also sound like Ivy/Megan. I've tried hard to keep that balance.

TM: Do you have a favorite number from the show?
MH: My favorite is "Let's Be Bad." I was playing Ivy, Ivy playing Marilyn, and Marilyn playing Sugar in Some Like It Hot. It was an epic number.

TM: One of my favorite songs on the soundtrack wasn't written by Marc and Scott: Carrie Underwood's "Crazy Dreams." Did you know the song beforehand?
MH: I wasn't familiar with it. They sent me Carrie's recording and I thought this could be fun, whatever we do with it. When we went into the recording studio, our producer decided to slow it down and make it tender, so you could really listen to the lyrics. And that felt right. I appreciate that we get to do some pop songs and we get to do our own arrangements so they fit within the show.

TM: Would you like to do more pop tunes next season?
MH: I really would like Ivy to sing some Ray LoMantagne or some Bonnie Raitt songs. Maybe something by Heart. I tend to think outside of the box, instead of the super-mainstream or ultra-current. I don't care about that. I think you'll also see that when my own album comes out. It's going to be very contemporary.

TM: The show uses so many people from Broadway. Is that a bonus for you?
MH: It's really great to look up in the makeup trailer and see so many of my friends from the Broadway community every week. They've really done right by us by using these incredible people who can really sing and dance.

TM: What has it been like working with Bernadette Peters, who plays your mother?
MH: It's been the ultimate dream come true. She is the true reason I wanted to be in musical theater. When I was going to meet her at this awards ceremony at college, I was so excited. And I needed her to know how important she was in my life; so I wrote this long fan letter, put it in a card, and handed it to her. Ivy has this very tumultuous relationship with her mother, and the hardest thing I've done all season is to act like I do not like Bernadette. Make sure to tune in on May 14, there are some really great scenes between us on the season finale.