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Megan Hilty at Café Carlyle

The Smash star returns for her second show at the Carlyle.

Megan Hilty and her band return for their second show at Café Carlyle.
(© Michael Wilhoite)

After making her thrilling Café Carlyle debut last year, Broadway and TV star Megan Hilty returns with a brand-new show full of old favorites. This sophomore outing is even more delightful than her first, with Hilty firmly taking her place as one of the great chanteuses to play the Upper East Side supper club.

As usual, she starts off with a bang, belting out Arlen and Mercer's manic "Come Rain or Come Shine" as if it were the easiest thing in the world (it most certainly is not). Hilty further borrows from the Judy at Carnegie Hall program with a medley of "Almost Like Being in Love" and "It Can't Be Love." Everyone breaks into a smile during her rendition of "Get Happy." Hilty clearly has a thing for Judy Garland and lucky for us, she has a powerful instrument to do her song catalog justice.

Hilty employs a mischievous grin during her three Cole Porter numbers: "C'est Magnifique," "I Love Paris," and "Let's Misbehave." She luxuriates in Porter's droll lyrics, sending them off to each member of the audience as if she were sharing a secret bit of gossip. Though it may only be her second Carlyle show, Hilty already seems perfectly at home in this room.

Part of the delight of Hilty's show is that her backup musicians could be headliners in their own right. Music director and pianist Matt Cusson plays like he's in a jazz recording session: There's never a misfire or sour note as he riffs through his solos. He has pop-star good looks and a voice to match, which he brings out for a sizzling duet of Gershwin's "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Meanwhile, Hilty's husband and guitarist Brian Gallagher makes wry comments from the other side of the stage. "No one says ersters," he scoffs at the tortured mispronunciation of "oysters." In addition to being talented musicians, Hilty and Gallagher have a natural and charming rapport that puts them up there with John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey when it comes to putting an audience at ease and making us laugh.

Fans of NBC's Smash (on which Hilty played the role of Ivy Lynn) won't be disappointed. Hilty sings three of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's stellar numbers from that show: The swinging "They Just Keep Moving the Line," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (delivered as a very sweet duet with Gallagher), and "Let's Be Bad," which Hilty performed on the show as a pill-popping Marilyn Monroe in the fictional musical Bombshell. "It's insane," she said before attempting the latter number, which overflows with witty lyrics and modulations. If her Café Carlyle performance is any indication, the sold-out June 8 concert presentation of Bombshell is going to be spectacular.

If there was any doubt that Hilty was born to play Marilyn, she puts it to rest with a wildly entertaining version of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." She has a real talent for interpreting smart lyrics through dynamite vocals, a rare gift in our age of American Idol-style excess, in which words often take a back seat to gratuitous riffs and runs. Hilty offers a happy marriage of old and new, keeping the time-honored traditions of cabaret alive with a modern style and winning sense of humor. Let's hope that Megan Hilty's show at Café Carlyle becomes an annual tradition.

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