It was billed as “Megan Hilty – Under the Stars”. It was indeed a starlit evening in Vista but the brightest star wasn’t in the sky. She was on stage and she was brilliant. Performing for the Moonlight Cultural Foundation’s unique VIP fundraiser, this American musical theatre songstress delighted the large audience with beautiful songs from several award winning Broadway shows. Banter between Hilty and her band garnered friendly comments and hearty chuckles from the audience. Her personal stories about her husband and 1 year old daughter, Viola, swelled the hearts of her many admirers and easily won her some new fans. She was funny and tender when she told us about the “Baby Moon” that she and her husband took in Paris, France shortly prior to the birth of their daughter.
Photos by Mary Murphy
It was Friday, Oct 2, 2015, and we were seated in the Moonlight Amphitheater, seeing top notch musical theater here in Vista. This was as good as anything we’ve ever seen at venues in the Los Angeles area prior to relocating to Vista. Yes, that includes the Amundson Theater, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the Hollywood Bowl.
The ushers at the Moonlight are always helpful and they take pleasure in their work. Tonight was no exception as we were warmly greeted by ushers Ellen Pleickhardt, Veronica Hauer, and Tommy Hauer. Cindy who volunteers with the Moonlight Angels was there busily helping to decorate the VIP reception area. We were also welcomed by Toria Watson, the amazing Executive Director of the Moonlight Foundation and the talented, inspired, and fantastically artistic Steven Glaudini who has directed the shows that have wowed all of Vista this past season. They have made Vista’s Moonlight Theater the talk of music lovers all over the West Coast. They will soon depart to New York and Broadway with some of the Foundation’s many donors. It’s an annual trek for Steven and it’s where he comes up with some of his great ideas for our venue here in Vista. Both Toria and Steven admitted that they have been “Taking risks!” and it’s reflected it the huge success the Moonlight has been experiencing.
Megan Kathleen Hilty’s accomplishments include her roles in several Broadway musicals, including her performance as Glinda in “Wicked” and her portrayal of Doralee Rhodes in “9 to 5 The Musical.” Tonight she talked about these shows and how she started as a ‘back-up” for Wicked and how she loved working with Dolly Parton. However, many in the audience remembered her as Ivy Lynn on the musical-drama TV series “Smash,” on which she sang many original songs written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
At intermission we spoke briefly with Vista Mayor Judy Ritter, Vista City Manager Patrick Johnson, and former City Council Member Dave Cowles. They were enjoying the evening with family members and marveling like we were at the quality of the performance. Mayor Ritter told us that after a hard week of running the city it was “a very enjoyably evening”. Dave Cowles admitted that he had watched the “Smash” series and is now a big fan of Megan Hilty.
After intermission, Hilty was briefly joined on stage by Celeste Butler, a former student from Moonlight Youth Theatre. Together they sang “For Good” from “Wicked.” Before leaving to study music and theater at USC, Butler last performed in the Moonlight Youth Theatre production of “Once On This Island”. She also performed with Moonlight Youth Theatre members and Grammy-award winner John Legend in a special charity event for the charitable organization, “Forte for Children”. Their duo performance was flawless. Afterwards, Butler confessed to me that is was an “unbelievable experience” and “at first she was in a daze”.
Also joining Hilty in a duet was Matt Cusson, an award-winning singer/songwriter and pianist. As member of Hilty’s four member band for this concert, he is a gifted self-taught musician who excels in jazz, pop, singer/songwriter and soul. The other member of her band that sang with her was her husband Brian Gallagher who, on his website, posts “I love my job. I love my family. I love my friends. I love my Megan and my Viola”.
Hilty entered the stage wearing a simple yet somehow stunning purple sheath dress and her long lustrous blond tresses flowed over the top of her shoulders. Some of the songs that Megan’s beautiful voice sent out from the stage included, “Diamonds are a Girls Best friend”, “Come Rain or Shine”, “Almost Like Falling In Love”, “Moving the Line”, “I love Paris”, and “Learning To Live Without You”. Her range encompasses every mood. Tender, sultry, torchy, vibrant lyrics and all presented with perfect control.
Proceeds from this Megan Hilty appearance will benefit the Moonlight Cultural Foundation. This will help fund the many art education programs that the foundation offers for youth and adults. This show will definitely go a long way towards fostering engagement of new audiences here in Vista. The foundation also seeks to increase student/educator participation in the artistic process. For example, the Moonlight Youth Theatre is supported by the foundation, and the youth theater is committed to providing education in theatre arts that fosters confidence, creativity and leadership skills. Each year, the Moonlight Youth Theatre helps hundreds of aspiring young actors pursue their dreams by performing in stage productions and attending theatrical workshops.
Hilty was born in Bellevue, Washington, and is the daughter of Jack and Donna Hilty. She began vocal lessons at the age of 12, and was interested in performing opera. She attended the Washington Academy of Performing Arts Conservatory High School in Redmond, and later she graduated from the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in 2004. Hilty a member of Actors’ Equity is a recipient of the National Society of Arts and Letters Award for Excellence in Musical Theater. In addition to her stage work, Hilty has been seen in guest appearances on various television shows including The Closer, Ugly Betty, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Desperate Housewives. She was the singing voice of Snow White in the animated “Shrek the Third”. Megan has performed for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House and the New York Times has rated her talent on par with those of Carol Channing and Marilyn Monroe. Hilty mentioned her solo album, “It Happens All the Time” and she described the album as “a breakup album”.
But no one wanted to break up with Hilty on this evening. After a standing ovation the audience clamored, “More!”, “More!.” The backstage reception saw over 100 fans and supporters lining up for autographs and photos. A couple of blokes, Chris and Greg, had come all the way from Australia to this show and meet Megan.
She didn’t appear a bit tired after her performance as she took time to meet and chat with everyone. She had previously performed this show in San Francisco and Northridge. I have no idea where so finds the time to do so many things, do them well, and look so beautiful. Vista has rarely seen such great talent. It was a SMASHing show!