Dallas — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas...and it’s coming to town a little bit early courtesy of Megan Hilty, who will join the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for a celebration of holiday favorites and other classics alongside award-winning actor and singer Cheyenne Jackson, December 19-21 at the Meyerson Symphony Center.
We caught up with her between stops to chat about her new tour with Jackson, her Christmas favorites, what it’s like to film a Christmas movie in July, how her life and career continue to evolve...and, of course, Smash.
TheaterJones: Welcome back to Dallas!
Megan Hilty: Thank you! The Dallas Symphony Orchestra is just amazing, I’m thrilled to get to come back to your beautiful city and sing with your incredible musicians. This is Christmas to me.
And you’re bringing Cheyenne Jackson with you on this tour, which is something new and exciting.
You’re welcome, everybody! Not only is Cheyenne a total dreamboat, but his voice is unbelievably gorgeous. He’s a magical person, and not only do I just love hearing him sing, I love singing with him.
It’s a special time for us because it’s the beginning of this show that we are figuring out together. We just did our very first concert together in San Francisco.
When we last spoke with you in 2016, you were just finishing up your Christmas album, A Merry Little Christmas.
Yes, and I’ll be bringing it down to Dallas with me! I’m so proud of it. My band and I all came up with these arrangements together, so it was really an organic process from a bunch of people who just eat, breathe, and sleep Christmas.
What’s your favorite Christmas song?
My all-time favorite is “The Christmas Song,” but I am also a huge Muppet Christmas Carol fan. There is a song in that movie that I put on my Christmas album, called “Bless Us All.” It makes me cry every single time I hear it. It’s so sweet and really what I feel like the crux of Christmas is all about.
You’ve had quite a few projects since that 2016 tour and that album, including a brand-new Lifetime Christmas movie that just came out.
Yes, Sweet Mountain Christmas! I particularly love the Lifetime Christmas movies, because of course there is a formula, but it’s just a little different. They’re getting a little more adventurous each year, and I love their inclusivity for casting. I’m a big fan and I’m proud to be a part of the Lifetime family.
What’s it like to work on a Christmas movie like that? Did you end up filming in the middle of the summer?
It’s ridiculously hot! They’re trying to make it so that it’s wintertime, but you’re in Vancouver in the dead of summer. You’re in turtlenecks, jackets, hats, mittens and boots for a really long time, a lot of times sitting around a fire!
Oh, it’s so hot. But it’s also delightful. It’s Christmas, so everyone’s there to have a great time and make something that brings pure joy to people.
Speaking of Lifetime, congratulations on your brand-new Critic’s Choice Award nomination for playing Patsy Cline in Lifetime’s Patsy and Loretta!
Thank you so much, isn’t that crazy? I still don’t quite believe it, I am beyond thrilled and a little flabbergasted. We had so much fun. And Jessie [Mueller] and I are nominated together, which is really awesome.
It’s really a testament to the writing. Angelina Burnett is so fantastic, so smart and funny and incredibly talented. The script was so great, our director Callie Khouri is so wonderful, to say the least. She’s the real deal. All of the elements were right in filming, so we were really set up to succeed and it was a joy to go to work every day. We were thrilled with every single detail.
Lifetime is changing things at their network, and I’m really proud to be a part of something that is going in that direction.
What’s really interesting is that entertainment for women used to be treated like it was less-than, but there’s been such a revolution, and Lifetime is at the forefront of it.
Absolutely! That’s what I keep saying about that movie — above everything else, I’m just so happy to be part of something that promotes a storyline about two women with a loving, supportive relationship that is not without its faults, but is still interesting. We have conflicts that are worthy of a storyline without it being focused on us degrading one another.
I’m not big on social media, but I try to use it to show my positive female relationships because those kinds of images are powerful, whether people want to recognize it or not. I think it’s really important even on that level, even especially on that level, to show that women love and care for each other.
That ideal comes through in your music, too. You have a lot of empowering themes in your repertoire, both in roles and in song choices.
I was thinking about that the other day. The projects I tend to work on, they’re not romance-driven — they’re female-friends driven. With 9 to 5 and Wicked, and even Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the material I have comes from shows I’ve been lucky enough to do that promote female friendship.
What are you working on now that you’re in Los Angeles full-time?
I almost put on my Instagram bio that I’m either on a plane, in a recording studio, or with my kids. I’m off doing a concert somewhere, or in a booth voicing these crazy characters that are so much fun. I have about five cartoon series that I’m doing voice work on right now. I sing in all but one of them, so I’m constantly learning new music.
It’s a dream job, really. The studios are all close to my house in the Valley, so I get to drop my kids off at school, go to work, pick them up, and then sometimes I’m gone on the weekends doing concerts or other special projects.
So, life is crazy, but really awesome. I never envisioned it this way, but I’m just incredibly grateful that I get to do these things that make me so happy work-wise and also get to be with my family as much as I do.
What is next for you?
I’m going to keep working on my concerts and the cartoons, and there are a couple of things that aren’t solidified yet. There are a couple of things that have the potential to be happening in the spring, but the deals that haven’t even begun to come close.
And of course, I don’t want to jinx it, or make anyone mad at me, so I can’t really say just yet!
That’s okay — just cough twice if it’s a Smash reboot! Even now, that show has such a huge fanbase. Did you expect that?
No, not at all! When I tell you that every single day since we went off the air, a stranger approaches me about the future of Smash, I’m not exaggerating even a tiny bit.
We’ve been off the air for what, six years now? The fact that people are still excited about these characters, the storylines, and the music...I never imagined that it would be like this. I love that people still want to know what the future is for these characters.
I have heard that they’re working on something for a stage show. I’m not quite sure what that will end up looking like, but they’re working at it!
Tell us about what we will get to hear from you when you’re in Dallas. Will there be any new surprises?
The program is a good mix, about half holiday tunes and half Broadway and standards. I was lucky enough to have some of the songs from my Christmas album arranged for an orchestra to play, and a couple so that Cheyenne and I can sing them together. Some of them we’ve never done together before the Dallas shows, so that will be fun.
On top of performing with the fantastic DSO musicians, which is quite the luxury for any singer, getting to sing with Cheyenne makes me almost just want to sit back and listen. It’s kind of selfish for me, getting to do these concerts, and I’m really looking forward to it.