Megan Hilty Owns ‘Smash,’ TV, Possibly the World

Screen-shot-2013-04-24-at-10.06.07-AMI watch Smash. Let’s not make it a big deal, okay? I watch it mostly for Megan Hilty as Broadway stalwart Ivy Lynn and because I’ve spent the majority of my professional life writing about Broadway, so, represent, you know?

There’s not a lot that I can wholeheartedly recommend about the show at this point, other than Hilty’s next-level performance. She’s like Connie Britton on Nashville, Serenely rising above the tawdry, tattered proceedings amidst which she finds herself. All of her performance numbers are worth seeking out on YouTube, but let’s talk about the one I haven’t been able to stop watching since it aired on Saturday.

The musical in Smash is a biography of Marilyn Monroe, and after much Sturm und Drang, Ivy Lynn finally lands the role. The musical ends with “Don’t Forget Me,” in which a now-dead Marilyn—who thought she was just a blonde joke—implores the audience to not forget her. “But forget every man who I ever met, ’cause they only lived to control,” she sings.

The song actually debuted in the first season finale, sung by Katharine McPhee. No comment. We weren’t expecting to see Ivy Lynn perform it in its entirety, and then the song started. And it’s just Megan Hilty on a stage, belting her face off and acting the hell out of the lyrics. At one point, we move into her head as she sings, “There are some born to shine who can’t do it alone, so protect them and take special care,” and behind her are the faces of the men and women who have both paved the way for this moment and who have, at various times, stood in her way. It ends with Hilty facing Bernadette Peters, as Ivy’s mother, who once told her daughter that she wasn’t naturally talented and so must work that much harder. And with one majestic high note, Hilty banishes her from the stage and just owns it. The show, Smash, your TV, the world.

What makes Ivy’s 11 o’clock number so riveting for people who attend Broadway regularly is… when was the last time you saw a show end with a number like this? What, Gypsy? Most of them fade out, and to see Hilty standing alone center stage inhabiting all of the magic and wonder that keeps us going to the theater even after disappointment after disappointment (after disappointment) is a thrill. You don’t have to watch the show to get chills. But the next time Hilty stars in a Broadway show (please, God, be soon), book your tickets.

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