by Adam Harring, Photo L-R: Conductor Steven Reineke, Peter Cooke, Megan Hilty
Since graduating from Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) School of Drama, Megan Hilty’s (BFA’04) career has been nothing short of a “Smash.”
From her start on Broadway in “Wicked,” to TV’s “Smash,” to doing voiceovers for movies, her career path has demonstrated the breadth of opportunities that exist for CMU drama graduates. Now touring the United States performing a series of concerts, Hilty has made the most of her talents.
In the late 1990s, Hilty herself couldn’t imagine the possibilities. After high school, she worked at a dinner theatre club in Portland, Ore., entertaining the locals and tourists who often were coming to dine after having seen a performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. After her show one night, someone approached her and told her she needed to look into Carnegie Mellon to get the training she would need to have a successful career. She took the advice.
“She took that gap year and lived,” said Gary Kline, a voice professor with the School of Drama, “and came in a lot more mature.”
Aside from her maturity and what Kline described as a “first-class voice,” Hilty also displayed a high level of professionalism while in school.
“She was the one who always showed up prepared and had every part learned,” Kline recalled.
It is this level of professionalism that Kline believes has helped her to transition seamlessly from one thing in her life to the next.
Upon graduation, Hilty was offered the Glinda standby role for the Broadway production of “Wicked,” the role made famous by Kristen Chenowith. Written by another CMU drama alum, Stephen Schwartz (A ’68), “Wicked” was taking the world by storm. Hilty made her debut opposite Idina Menzel in 2004 and eventually took over as principal Glinda in May 2005.
Following a year on Broadway, Hilty performed the role on tour before settling into the Los Angeles production of the show, which ran from 2007-2009.
During her time in Los Angeles, Hilty also began workshopping the role of Doralee for 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL, Dolly Parton’s stage adaptation of the film. Following her stint with WICKED, Hilty made the return to Broadway as a star in the production.
In 2011, Hilty made the move back to Hollywood to join the cast of SMASH, an NBC show about an actress wanting to land the lead in a musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. The show aired from 2012-2013 and propelled Hilty to stardom. Now a household name, Hilty released her first solo album, “It Happens All the Time,” and in 2013 returned to television with another NBC show, “Sean Saves the World.”
Currently, Hilty performs in concert series throughout the United States, including a Memorial Day performance in Washington D.C., and “Luck Be a Lady: Megan Hilty sings Sinatra and More” at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh. Further extending her talents, Hilty has found yet another outlet: She now lends her voice to animated characters via an active voiceover career that has included the character of Snow White in “Shrek 3” and Rosetta in a Disney Fairies series that spun off from “Peter Pan.”
Despite her busy professional life, Hilty also has made time to return and teach a few master classes at CMU.
“There are many students who long to come back, and do come back,” Kline said. “These students have taught wonderful classes and more than anything else, they inspire. She taught a few master classes, and they were brilliant.”
Hilty enjoys returning to CMU and giving back to the students and program because of how well it prepared her for her professional endeavors.
“I’ve had some really hard, 16-hour days full of shooting, rehearsing, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah: All really great stuff,” Hilty said. “But I’ll look at that schedule and say “that’s a piece of cake after going to CMU – they’ve prepared me for all of this stuff.”
As for her next big role, Hilty will soon be a mother as she and her husband, Brian Gallagher, are expecting their first child this year.