It’s hard to say which role is Susan Egan’s best; after all, the actress has been dazzling audiences with her singing and her talents on Broadway or onscreen for decades now (ever since she starred in a high school version of Mary Poppins that was “so illegal” that she is “horrified as a Disney producer” when she thinks of it). But if you ask Disney fans, many will say that Susan Egan’s voiceover work as the Disney heroine Megara in Hercules (1997) was a highlight! Susan spoke about the role on the D23 podcast recently, and she had plenty of fun memories to share about the role.
When asked about voicing Megara (also known as Meg) in Hercules, Susan described the role as “a dream come true”. “A Broadway show is an amazing thing,” she told D23, “but it dissipates into the ethers at 10:30 when the show is over. But to be part of a Disney animated feature is to be part of something that’s instantly timeless that my kids will see, their kids will see…It will last long after me”.
Susan also said that she was particularly fond of Meg, “who I think was a little ahead of her time…she’s a little ‘hashtag Me Too’, and a strong woman who doesn’t need the guy and ties her own sandals and everything”. Since Disney executives already knew Susan from her time originating the role of Belle on the first Disney Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, they were initially hesitant to cast Susan for the role of a sardonic femme fatale. “They didn’t want me to audition for it because I think they really thought that I was like Belle,” Susan said. “But Meg is actually where my voice naturally sits”.
She also said in the D23 interview that she identified with Meg because the “first thing my mother taught me was sarcasm” and she had always been drawn to the kind of “sexy character” that populated many 1930’s movies. Lauren Bacall and Bette Davis were Susan’s idols, so playing a sensual and wisecracking female was a big moment for her.
Even though Megara’s song “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” is a Disney fan favorite, Susan said that it was “totally intimidating” to perform alongside her co-stars who were playing the Muses and providing backup vocals. “Singing ‘I Won’t Say” with Lillias and LaChanze and Cheryl and Roz in the room where they can just riff” was a struggle for Susan Egan, who laughingly said that she had no idea “how to riff” and Alan Menken wanted her to add a riff into the end of the song next to Muses who could “sing like nobody’s business”.
“Lillias was just holding my hand and was like ‘girl, everybody has soul somewhere; we just need to find yours’,” Susan remembered in the interview. “They’re all Broadway girls too. We all come from the same community, and so they were there for me”!
Even though Megara is one of Susan Egan’s most iconic roles, she was quick to shift the focus to the rest of the moviemakers in the interview. “Voice talent gets a lot of credit but we work maybe 21 days on those movies, and that’s max,” Susan said. “They’re working on it day in and day out for two, three years…they’re really the ones who bring it to life”. She also cited the directors’ “tight direction”, the hilarity of the male cast members, and the movie’s “very contemporary humor” for its longevity.
Susan Egan is currently touring with Disney Princess – The Concert, a concert in which she and three other Disney princess actresses and Broadway stars perform Disney princess medleys!