If Megan Hilty is in it, expect it to be smashing. The Smash star returns to Broadway as Brooke Ashton, a sexy but very inexperienced stage actress, in Roundabout’s revival of Michael Frayn’s backstage farce Noises Off, opening January 14 at the American Airlines Theatre. Hilty, who has also tackled roles made famous by icons like Dolly Parton and Carol Channing, explains why there’s more to her “dumb blondes” than meets the eye.
By Brandon Voss
Next: Before playing Ivy in Smash, you starred on Broadway as Glinda in Wicked and Doralee in 9 to 5. You also played Annie Oakley and Lorelei Lee in the Encores! productions of Annie Get Your Gun and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Do you only choose roles that are guaranteed to make you a gay icon?
Megan Hilty: [Laughs] Absolutely! Really, I’m just doing the things that people will let me do. But I’m such a huge supporter of the gay community, so it’s nice to feel the love back. It means the world to me.
You don’t play many shy, mousy types, do you?
True. At first glance, if you look at all the things I’ve done, you might say that I play a lot of “dumb blonde” roles. But there’s a theme there — besides the fact that I’m a crazy person to take on so many iconic roles that other people made famous. They’re all characters that prove you can’t judge a book by its cover. They’ve all got great heads on their shoulders and know how to use what they’ve got to get what they want.
What attracted you to Brooke Ashton in Noises Off?
One of the big draws was being able to do something funny again. I didn’t exactly play a nice person on Smash, so some people may view me like that in real life. And with all the craziness going on in the world right now, it’s really nice to be a part of something that just makes people laugh. It would be really easy to play Brooke as another dumb blonde, but I think she’s working and trying really, really hard. I made the choice that it’s Brooke’s first speaking role, so it’s a big deal, and she wants to be taken seriously as an actress. She’s never had to memorize lines before, so she’s memorized everyone’s lines. She’s probably only hired for parts because she’s comfortable not wearing a lot of clothes.
Brooke’s costumes are definitely very skimpy. Is that comfortable for you?
I had to get comfortable with it. It’s the least amount of clothing I’ve ever worn on stage. It was kind of insane to take this part so soon after having my first child. It’s not like I had her yesterday — she’s a year old — but it really inspired me to get back into shape. When it came time for audiences to see me, I just had to accept where I was physically. As long as you’re confident and don’t look uncomfortable, people will laugh and it doesn’t matter what you look like.
Some people may be surprised to see you back on Broadway in a non-musical role. Is there at least some belting going on backstage?
Oh, no. There is no singing going on. But I do have some concert dates in February with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and I’m going back to play the Carlyle in May, so there’s more singing for me on the horizon.
Smash fans can be pretty obsessive. Has that passion soothed the sting of the show’s premature cancellation?
The enormous afterlife for Smash has been wonderful, and I credit that to the great music, specifically what Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote. People can say, “Poor them, it got canceled so soon,” but I look at it a little differently now that I’ve been in the television world for a little while and have seen the miracles it takes for anything to get on air in the first place. I feel like we were very lucky to have those two seasons and expose more people to musical theater. We brought a little piece of Broadway into peoples’ living rooms every week. One of the greatest compliments I get is when someone tells me they didn’t like or never went to the theater until Smash.
Bombshell, the show-within-a-show on Smash, is officially in development to become a real Broadway musical. If you are not cast as Marilyn Monroe, there may be riots in Shubert Alley.
[Laughs] Well, who knows? I may be too old by the time they actually get it together!
Next, January 2016.