Megan Hilty sparkles in the ‘Diamond Series’ at NYC’s Feinstein’s/54 Below

Feinstein’s/54 Below continues its premiere selection of cabaret concerts in the elite Diamond Series this week with Tony-nominated stage and screen star Megan Hilty, making her debut at the popular nightclub after the pandemic-time postponement of her originally scheduled date. And it’s well worth the wait!

Megan Hilty. Photo by Deb Miller.

Known to fans everywhere for her TV appearances as triple-threat Ivy Lynn in the NBC hit Smash and most recently as the legendary Patsy Cline in the original Lifetime movie Patsy & Loretta, which garnered her a Critics Choice Award nomination, among many other television credits, Hilty’s critically acclaimed stage performances include her Broadway portrayals of Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked, Doralee Rhodes in Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5: The Musical, and Brooke Ashton in the Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of Noises Off. She has also played sold-out concerts at such illustrious venues as Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops, The Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra, and Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic, in addition to recording three albums (Megan Hilty: Live at the Café Carlyle; A Merry Little Christmas with Megan Hilty; and It Happens All the Time).

The Diamond Series set list includes fan favorites from Hilty’s famed career, along with some meaningful personal choices, interspersed with funny and heartfelt repartee that let the audience get to know her and feel like friends. All highlighted her outstanding vocal range, sparkling sense of humor, and affecting sensitivity, as she expressed her genuine gratitude to everyone and her delight at being back live on stage for the enthusiastic audience after a long absence, reunited with her dear friends and musicians, with whom she hadn’t performed for nearly two years. She wasn’t the only one moved by her welcome return; emotion permeated the packed house.

Megan Hilty, with pianist Matt Cusson and bass player Dennis Michael Keefe. Photo by Deb Miller.

Backed by her terrific four-piece band, featuring music director Matt Cusson on piano, Dennis Michael Keefe on bass, Jack DeBoe on drums, and her husband Brian Gallagher on guitar (sharing the happy occasion of their eighth wedding anniversary on the show’s opening night), the powerhouse singer performed an entertaining mix of her familiar songs from Smash (“They Just Keep Movin’ the Line,” “Second Hand White Baby Grand,” and the promised encore – no need to pretend to leave the stage! – “Don’t Forget Me/Let Me Be Your Star,” with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman), inspired by the life and letters of Marilyn Monroe; 9 to 5 (“Backwoods Barbie/9 to 5” by Dolly Parton) and Patsy & Loretta (“Crazy” by Willie Nelson), joking that she’s a native of Washington State so of course she’s cast in southern roles; and Wicked (the show-stopper “Popular” by Stephen Schwartz), after offering a witty self-referencing one-line synopsis of the musical as being “about a beautiful blonde girl who changes lives.”

Hilty’s comedic chops and amazing range again commanded the spotlight in “Alto’s Lament” (music by Zina Goldrich and lyrics by Marcy Heisler), in which the classically trained soprano laughingly questions the casting of singers in musical theater. And she paid homage to such beloved classics as “That’s Life” (by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon), including a top-notch solo by Cusson; a medley of songs from the iconic Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun (music and lyrics by Irving Berlin); the wistful “Autumn Leaves” (by Jacques Prevert and Joseph Kosma), paired beautifully with “When October Goes” (music by Barry Manilow and lyrics by Johnny Mercer); and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” (music by Jules Styne, lyrics by Leo Robin), noting both Marilyn and the Diamond Series (visually referenced in her gorgeous glittering gown). She also dedicated two lovingly expressive numbers to Gallagher – The Goodbye Girl’s “What a Guy” (by Marvin Hamlisch and David Zippel) and “Suddenly Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors (with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman), for which her talented spouse joined her in a duet.

The top-of-the-line concert was complemented by a five-star meal, including a welcome glass of sparkling wine, an hors d’oeuvres tray, and a special three-course gourmet dinner, for one unbeatable night out in New York.

Running Time: 80 minutes, without intermission.

Diamond Series: Megan Hilty plays through Sunday, November 7, 2021, at Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, cellar, NYC. For tickets, priced from $300-475), call (646) 476-3551, or go online. The concert, dinner, tax, and tip are included in the ticket price, with additional alcoholic beverages billed separately. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and a valid ID are required to enter the club. Masks must be worn while not actively eating or drinking.


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