Megan Hilty at Café Carlyle

The star of stage and screen makes a smash debut at the Upper East Side supper club.

Megan Hilty appears alongside her husband, Brian Gallagher, in her Café Carlyle debut.
Megan Hilty appears alongside her husband, Brian Gallagher, in her Café Carlyle debut.
(© Michael Wilhoite)

"The more you talk, the more we don't belong here," Brian Gallagher quipped at his wife, Megan Hilty, during her Café Carlyle debut. This was after she revealed she learned from MTV Cribs that Mariah Carey now owns Marilyn Monroe's baby grand. This may mark Hilty's first time at the Carlyle, but she most certainly feels at home on its stage. With powerhouse vocals and an affable rapport with both her band and the audience, Hilty exudes the essence of good cabaret. Her show is chock-full of unique moments, shared as though they were with a small group of friends over dinner.

Last seen on Broadway in 9 to 5, Hilty is most famous for her starring role as Ivy Lynn on NBC's Smash. She pays tribute to that show with her bombastic opening number, "They Just Keep Moving the Line," by Smash composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. It's a strong way to open an evening that just keeps getting better as it progresses.

Hilty has raided the archives of the New York Pops for this debut performance, using conductor Steven Reineke's arrangements of a swinging medley of Almost Like Being in Love/This Can't Be Love, a hauntingly sad medley of Autumn Leaves/When October Goes, and a rollicking rendition of Get Happy that would make Judy Garland proud. Hilty delivers a big-orchestra sound packed into a small dining room.

Amazingly, that big sound is accomplished using just a four-piece band: Gallagher plays acoustic guitar while Dennis Keefe mans the double bass and Ryan Hoagland provides the beat. Music director Matt Cusson takes the piano, occasionally singing along with Hilty as he does on Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold's "You Don't Know Me." Cusson conducts the band with his constantly bobbing head, which is adorned with a newsboy cap. His relationship and natural chemistry with Hilty results in some awesome musical moments.

Hilty and Cusson push the boundaries of the Great American Songbook with an achingly sad acoustic arrangement of Don Henley's "Heart of the Matter," proving that this lyrically astute and melodic song belongs in the same league as Arlen & Gershwin's "The Man That Got Away." As the very witty Gallagher remarked after Hilty finished the latter song, "It's so funny to watch a pregnant lady sing 'The Man That Got Away.'" Oh yes, by the way, Hilty is quite pregnant these days. This year she and Gallagher are expecting a baby girl, their first child.

The most moving song of the evening is Paul Williams and Kenneth L. Ascher's "Rainbow Connection," made famous by Kermit the Frog in 1979's The Muppet Movie. Hilty sings this song for her daughter while her husband accompanies on guitar. She pours her hopes and dreams for the future into the song, leaving nary a dry eye in the house. It is a very personal moment to share with an audience, and you cannot help but feel grateful to have been a part of it.

You won't want to miss this opportunity to see one of Broadway and television's most exciting voices make her maiden voyage at New York's premiere supper club. If this show is any indication, it promises to be the first of many.

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