“For years I walked by this place and saw all the fancy people going in. It’s a dream come true to be here,” said Megan Hilty during her wonderfully eclectic debut cabaret show at the Café Carlyle. Known for her role as Ivy Lynn, a young performer competing for the role of Marilyn Monroe in a Broadway musical on the television series Smash, the evening was comprised of songs from it as well as numerous standards. Her winning vocal style ranged from brassy belting to low-key simplicity that mined all of the emotion and comedy from her inspired varied repertoire. Her expressive face and infectious likeability complemented her singing skills and charming patter, making her performance even more delightful.
“They Just Keep Moving the Line,” was the rousing biting show business themed opening Smash number. Hilty eloquently paid tribute to the show’s songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman: “I don’t think people understand their genius.” After recounting Marilyn Monroe’s early life, she then performed their wistful, “Second Hand White Baby Grand,” about a piano which brought joy to Monroe during her troubled childhood. “I’m pregnant. It’s not that I had too much for dinner. Though I did,” she explained of her visible condition in an elegant slinky black dress with a spidery collar. Her handsome and personable husband Brian Gallagher on guitar was beaming nearby and the two giddily bantered from time to time. Their obvious devotion brought a lovely romantic dimension to the evening. Being a notable blonde visually aided her raucous rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes which she had appeared in as the lead Lorelei Lee in an Encores! production of the show at New York City Center.
Two combination sequences were very effective. “Almost Like Being in Love” followed by “This Can’t Be Love” and dramatic lighting enhanced “Autumn Leaves” coupled with “When October Goes.” Familiar standards “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “The Man That Got Away,” and “Someone To Watch Over Me” with its opening verse were given inspired renditions. Besides Mr. Gallagher on guitar the sharp band included Ryan Hoagland on percussion, Dennis Keefe on bass, and music director Matt Cusson on piano. The amiable and quirky Mr. Cusson also sang with her a few times most enjoyably on a swinging “That’s Life.” “I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. I only have one more song before my two other last songs. Encores are silly! I hope this one makes you happy,” she joked before launching into “Get Happy.” She asked an audience member to take a short video with her phone of her performing, for a scrapbook to show her daughter-to-be all of the places she was before she was born. The very enjoyable evening ended with a sweet version of The Muppets’ “The Rainbow Connection.”
Megan Hilty (performing thru June 7th, 2014) Café Carlyle, 35 East 76th Street, in Manhattan
For reservations call, 212-744-1600 or visit http://www.ticketweb.com
Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission