Some people complain about the commute that they have for work. But not Megan Hilty.
Of course, if your work took you from Oz to Broadway to Neverland and then back again, would you ever complain?
I got to talk with Ms. Hilty late last week while she was taking a break from shooting "Smash." Which is this ambitious hour-long musical drama that will be debuting on NBC on February 6th.
But before Megan got called back to the set (where this Broadway vet is playing one of two talented young actresses who are vying for the title role in a major new musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe), she wanted to talk about her most recent project for the Mouse. Which is voicing the character of Rosetta in "Pixie Hollow Games," the first-ever Disney Fairies TV special (which debuts on the Disney Channel November 19th at 7 / 6c).
"Like a lot of little girls, I grew up watching Disney animation and then dreamed about playing a Princess like Belle, Ariel or Jasmine," Hilty explained. "So when Walt Disney Feature Animation called and offered me this part in 'Pixie Hollow Games,' I thought 'Well, a Disney Fairy is almost a Disney Princess.' So I immediately jumped on this job."
Now some animation fans may recall that -- when Rosetta were first introduced in the Disney Fairies film series -- this character was originally voiced by Tony Award-winner Kristen Chenoweth. But since Kristen has been busy shooting her own project for Disney (i.e. "GCB," which will be bowing on ABC sometime at midseason), Megan stepped in for Kristen and then provided Rosetta's speaking voice for this TV special.
"I've actually done this a number of times over the past few years. Which is understandable, since I'm one of the actresses who joined the Broadway cast of 'Wicked' and then played the role of Glinda after Kristen left that show," Hilty continued. "So whenever Kristen has a scheduling conflict and then can't do something like one of her symphony performances, they typically reach out to me. And I'm always happy to fill in."
Speaking of Oz, Megan is headed back over the rainbow next summer with "Dorothy of Oz," the new 3D animated musical which will be hitting theater on August 3, 2012. But this time around, Hilty won't be playing Glinda. She'll be voicing an all-new character, the tiny but bossy China Princess.
"What's kind of interesting about 'Dorothy of Oz' and 'Pixie Hollow Games' is that the characters which I voice in both of these projects have very similar journeys. Both are originally very set in their ways at the start. But thanks to the people around them and the examples that they set, both the China Princess and Rosetta eventually grow into better people. Which I think is a great message to get across to kids," Megan said.
And while she's still relatively new to doing voicework for animation (Hilty's first Toontown gig was providing the singing voice for Snow White in 2007's "Shrek the Third"), with her typical enthusiasm Megan has jumped into that field with both feet. Recently landing a regularly occurring role in Nickelodeon's new animated series, "Robot & Monster" (which is due to start airing sometime during the Spring of 2012).
"With all of this going on, plus 'Smash' on NBC, it feels like I've got 15 dreams coming true all at the same time," Megan laughed.
And speaking of "Smash," given that Hilty's career began on Broadway (More to the point, given everything that she experienced while taking part in "9 to 5" 's troubled out-of-town try-out in Los Angeles back during the Fall of 2008, Megan knows first-hand about all of the drama that can go on behind-the-scenes while mounting a new Broadway musical), I asked if it felt somewhat surreal to now be working on a weekly television series that was trying to dramatize what it was like to work on a Broadway show. And Megan's answer - surprisingly enough - was "No."
"In a lot of ways, 'Smash' feels old home week to me. By that I mean: Bob Greenblatt -- the Chairman of NBC Entertainment -- was the producer of '9 to 5.' And the team who handles the casting on 'Smash' has made sure to load with this show up with all sorts of Broadway pros: Brian d'Arcy James, Christian Borle and Bernadette Peters. So it feels as authentic as possible," Megan stated. "So I feel very much at home here."
And -- of course -- given how huge Disney is on Broadway these days, does it really surprise you to hear that "Smash" also features some Mouse House favorites? From Nick Jonas' recently announced guest appearance on this hour-long drama to the voice of Queen Clarion from the "Disney Fairies" film being cast as "Marilyn" 's smart-yet-cynical producer?
"I keep meaning to talk with Angelica Huston about how we've both worked on 'Disney Fairies' projects. See how she feels about doing animation," Hilty said. "Me? I just love the medium. I love how - as a voice actor - you get to do multiple takes. You really get the chance to experiment with how your character sounds. Which is very different for all of the live stage & television work that I've done to date."
So given how much Megan clearly enjoyed working on "Pixie Hollow Games," would she be willing to voice Rosetta a second time if Walt Disney Feature Animation were to call again?
"Well, that kind of depends on Kristen." Hilty concluded. "She's a very busy girl these days. But Kristen's not available to voice Rosetta, I'd be happy to pull on my Disney Fairy wings again."
Jim Hill is an award-winning entertainment writer who lives in New Boston, N.H. Over the past 30 years, he has interviewed hundreds of veterans of the animation and themed entertainment industry and written extensively about The Walt Disney Company.
Jim is currently working on a behind-the-scenes history of the development and construction of Disneyland. For his more immediate musings on movies, TV shows, books and theme parks, please check out his blog, jimhillmedia.com.
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