ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Photo Ops With Megan Hilty and Peter Joback Loves Musicals

By Seth Rudetsky
August 26, 2013

A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

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I'm just starting my long Provincetown stay. I arrived Friday and I ain't leaving 'til Labor Day! It didn't make sense to fly back and forth so much when I have so many shows scheduled here: it started with Megan Hilty, mid-week is Megan Mullally (we just added a show!) and Labor Day weekend is Patti LuPone. Get your tix at PtownArtHouse.com.

I love it here so much. Megan Hilty arrived Sunday morning after a red-eye flight from L.A. I was so nervous that she'd be exhausted or vocally shot. First of all, her voice is so solid that she sang full out in tech rehearsal and was flawless in both shows. And in terms of looking/feeling exhausted, she's so stunning that when she stood next to me, she looked as if she just left a spa and I looked like I hadn't slept in two days. I posted a picture of the two of us together and wrote a caption about how fresh she looked compared to me. Of course, I expected a few comments along the lines of, "Oh, come on, Seth. You look great!" but received none. The only comment I got was: "Genes, Seth." Yay! I definitely wasn't fishing for a compliment. I was specifically looking for a scientific answer as to why I'll never look that good. Phew! I'm very relieved to know it's completely out of my hands because, apparently, her genes are superior. And, I'm out.

Megan is co-starring on the new Sean Hayes sitcom called "Sean Saves The World." Unlike "Smash" it has a live audience and she's already filmed three episodes. She went to L.A. right after the Broadway production of 9 to 5 (she played the role Dolly Parton did in the film). She felt very dark after the show closed and didn't want to bring that darkness into auditions in NYC, so she thought a dose of the LA sun would pick her up. While she was there, she got a slew of TV roles where she played the "b*tch or the killer." On one episode of "Desperate Housewives," she was the reason one of the characters died.

When a character dies on a TV show, the actor is then out of work, and the "fun" part was, the actor found out it was his last episode ever while Megan was with him. So much for the positive energy of L.A. Regardless, I asked her about auditioning for "Smash." Turns out, she taped it. She read the scenes, sang a Marilyn version of "Happy Birthday" and then her own version of "Bye Bye Baby" from Gentleman Prefer Blondes. She had a great arrangement because she was doing her own show called "Megan Hilty Sings the Blondes," which she told us was a one-woman act where she sang songs made famous by blondes. She then added, "I threw in a couple of songs by brunettes…for depth." While she was waiting to hear back from "Smash," she wound up then getting a final audition for a new TV show. When you do TV, you have to complete your deal and sign a seven year contract before your final audition! When Steven Spielberg found out she might not be available to do "Smash," he skipped the regular process of auditioning and simply gave her the role of Ivy.

Hilty on "Smash."
photo by Will Hart/NBC

As amazing as that sounds, it wound up being very difficult for Megan because there were people on the show who were annoyed that she was cast without getting full approval from the entire creative team. When she got to the set, people who worked on the show told her, "I had no say over you getting the role so you're gonna have to prove yourself to me." Yay? The good news is, she loved doing the show and told me her favorite part was being able to be the original singer on a slew of Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman songs. However, at one point, they were in the recording studios and Marc and Scott asked her to listen to a song they had just written. It was a demo tape sung by the brilliant Christine Ebersole and the song was so beautiful that it made Megan cry. Sadly, the song wasn't for her. They just wanted her to hear it because they were really proud of it. She loved it so much and was devastated she couldn't sing it. She basically told them it was torture to hear a gorgeous song and find out it's for someone else. Then, months later, the script changed and the song went to Megan! Here it is. She sang it at the end of the concert. 

At the beginning of the interview, I asked her about her childhood and she pulled the old "I was such a nerd." I didn't believe her… until she admitted she spent one summer at "Opera Camp." That's right, a camp for teen girls who were aspiring opera singers. She flat out admitted there was an abundance of piano key scarves. Then, she claimed she wasn't a super pretty girl when she was young. I didn't buy it. That's usually what beautiful people say to sound "down to earth:" AKA models who claim "I was so ugly as kid. My eyes were so big and my hips were so small and my teeth were way too white."

Cut to, she whipped out a photo from when she was 10 and proved herself a truth teller. And she described her look: a part that began halfway down the side of her head and then hair pulled all the way to other side, pre-dating Trump's combover by a decade. One enormous earring that showed. Why? Because she was only wearing one earring. A man's turtleneck with and man's blazer over it, copying Joyce DeWitt's schoolmarm look on "Three's Company." And, naturally, head gear. That's right, she had a retainer that jutted out from her mouth, which she told us she could easily remove but chose to keep in her mouth. She kept it in not just during the school day, but during an actual school photo. Brava! But she's not wearing it now, so we took a photo in the so-called dressing room in Provincetown. We're about to kiss underneath "theatre mistletoe" AKA flypaper.

Speaking of head gear, her dentist told her a few years ago to wear Invisalign to keep her teeth in good shape. After a period of time wearing it at night, she decided to wear it while working. What was her job? The role of Glinda in Wicked! She said she put it in and immediately realized she had to take it out when the opening number sounded like "Let ush be glad, let ush be grateful! Let ush rejoishify…".

Underneath the "theatre mistletoe"



Seth with Peter Jobeck
Photo by Robb Johnston

Speaking of Wicked, the New York Times came and re-reviewed the show when she was starring opposite Shoshana Bean. Megan got the paper on the way to work and read a b-a-d review of herself. She was plummeted for a minute and then decided to do old-school retail therapy. That's right, she took herself to Saks and bought some expensive shoes. She then cut out the review and framed it (!) side-by-side with the receipt from Saks. That was her way of "taking her power back" and since then she's never read reviews. Cut to, she wound up getting a full-out love letter from the Times when she played Lorelei in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but she never read it. Brava!

Last week at the "Chatterbox," I had Swedish star Peter Jöback, who was just finishing up his run as the Phantom. He starred in the Swedish versions of Grease and Fame and was then chosen as one of the male leads in Kristina by the ABBA writing team. He had spent years making tapes of himself singing and sending them to Cameron Mackintosh to no avail. Perhaps they sounded like my tapes of myself at age 12

Finally, because of Kristina, he got an actual audition for Cameron in London and wound up getting the lead in Miss Saigon. However, in Sweden, shows go on hiatus in April and then re-open in September so when he got his contract for the West End, he briefly looked at it and couldn't understand why they contracted him through the first week of September. He assumed he'd do the show, take a long break until September and then do one extra week. While he was rehearsing, he was making plans to go home in April and travel through July and August. He was completely surprised when he found out he'd be doing the show through the summer! Thankfully, he hadn't bought a non-refundable airline tickets to Stockholm!

He's about to come out with a new CD called "I Love Musicals." The name is based on the fact that it's considered "uncool" to like musicals, so he wanted to claim it out loud. I love how on-the-nose it is. My next CD will be refuting all the high-protein diets I'm constantly seeing in magazines. I'm calling it "I Love Carbs" it will simply be 10 tracks of me asking various waiters for another bread basket. Back to Peter: he's also touring "I Love Musicals" as a live show and it'll play all through Sweden. Who else is starring? Norm Lewis! Here's a link

James and Juli wanna rent bikes so I'm ix-naying. Speaking of James and Juli, they're leaving here at the crack of dawn on Wednesday to make the Wednesday matinee of Unbroken Circle. Last week, Debra Monk, Howard McGillin, Lizz Winstead and Andrea Burns all came to the show. Come see it this week for various and random star spotting! Here's the website: UnbrokenCircleThePlay.com. Peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)