A Merry Little Christmas
Joe’s Pub, NYC, December 4, 2016
A very pregnant and radiant Megan Hilty performed classics from her new Christmas album, A Merry Little Christmas, along with a handful of non-holiday songs (Smash, Wicked, and Joni Mitchell) to a packed house at Joe’s Pub. Served well by her outstanding musical director (and singer) Matt Cusson on piano, her funny, talented husband Brian Gallagher on guitar, Dennis Michael Keefe on bass, and Jack DeBoe on drums, Hilty connected powerfully with the audience from the moment she impishly walked onstage with a tiny Christmas tree and sang a “Jingle Bell Medley.” “That was a lot of Christmas at once!” she joked.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Hugh Martin) showcased Hilty’s talent for moving from rock to jazz. Banter with her husband (who, they are “95% sure,” is the father) made for much mirth as they played old favorites. The mood shifted with “A Place Called Home” (Alan Menken/Lynn Ahrens, from their A Christmas Carol score), which Hilty prefaced with a moving reflection on her husband and the home she’s found in the world with him. “I need to start singing and stop talking or I won’t get through the song,” she said, beginning to choke up. The country mashup of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (Randy Brooks) and “Blue Christmas” (Billy Hayes/Jay W. Johnson) gave Gallagher a chance to shine, but “Popular” (Stephen Schwartz) from Wicked stole the show. Hilty, who did the show for two years in New York, two years on the road, and six months in her hometown, Seattle, asked if anyone in the audience hadn’t seen the show. A few hands went up and she praised the uninitiated for their courage in admitting their shameful oversight. After an amusing plot recap, she asked, “Have you ever heard a woman six months pregnant sing this?” “Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the song,” her husband joked. And then Hilty performed the song she’s sung live a couple thousand times as though it were her Broadway debut.
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (Edward Pola/George Wyle) ingeniously intertwined with “Skating,” featured a breathtaking bass and piano solo. The mashup was the idea of bassist Dennis Michael Keefe, underscoring the truly collaborative nature of the recent project. The Smash medley of “Don’t Forget Me” and “Let Me Be Your Star” (Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman) was something of a letdown after the prior number. The evening ended with a clever parody on the encore tradition in cabaret, whereby a singer ends the set, walks off stage, and returns for another number or two. Before the final number and her “heartfelt and genuine thank-yous”—which actually were—the performer prepped us for what was to come. Because she’s pregnant, she said she wasn’t going far. She wasn’t kidding: Hilty walked three feet before she “returned” to the stage for a sexy rendition of “They Just Keep Moving the Line” (Shaiman/Wittman) and a beautiful “The Rainbow Connection,” preceded by “There’s Always Tomorrow.”