I was first introduced to the idea of NBC’s new musical drama months ago when I overheard someone at a New York piano bar say “So I’m screen-testing for this new show SMASH.” My curiosity caught the best of me, and I found myself Googling the show that night and finally ended replaying the show’s trailer almost daily.
Now, I know what you’re thinking “ugh not another Glee.” Well playwright and TV writer Theresa Rebeck has made sure SMASH has several things that set the show apart. The first being a cohesive storyline that draws clear, definitive lines in the social structure of the Broadway world. The show has been compared to Upstairs Downstairs (though I’m a diehard fan of Downton Abbey) for its abrasive separation between the echelons of those involved in the making of a Broadway Musical. Who would have thought that even under the footlights, someone could still be cast aside?
The truth is, for some, opportunities can be few and far between even the biggest successes. My mind automatically goes to Coleen Sexton who famously debuted on Broadway at the age of 20 in 2000 as Lucy in “Jekyll and Hyde”. Her performance was even seen on HBO, but for some reason, she’s only managed to be seen in the touring companies of Wicked, Legally Blonde: The Musical, and Chicago since her “big break.”
This is the world that SMASH dares to show, even by casting real Broadway actors like Christian Borle (Legally Blonde: The Musical), Megan Hilty (9 to 5, and Wicked), and Savannah Wise (Ragtime), who all, though incredibly successful in the eyes of many, can easily relate where many of these characters come from.
Megan Hilty’s character Ivy Lynn is a veteran Broadway chorus girl who dreams of getting her own big break, and when songwriter/ lyricist duo Julia Houston and Tom Levitt (Debra Messing and Christian Borle respectively) approach her to workshop a number for their new (hopefully smash hit) musical “Marilyn,” it seems as if her star is about to rise. That is, until waitress Karen Cartwright (American Idol’s Katharine McPhee) impresses the audition panel with her clear voice and refreshing innocence.
Anjelica Huston plays the musical’s strong willed producer, Eileen Rand who’s current production of “My Fair Lady” is in escrow due to a messy divorce. It seems there is so much at stake for everyone on the would-be playbill.
Jack Davenport is Derek Wills, a brilliant and womanizing director who uses the apparent promise of stardom as a ploy to sleep with young, hopeful actresses.
The creative team for SMASH also stresses that the singing and musical numbers follow a basic rule, there has to be a reason for it. Let’s remember that the original musical numbers performed in this series are usually performed in the rehearsal room, and thanks to the magic of television we get to see, in many cases what the actors imagine what the finished product will look like. There will even be performances from the other Houston-Levitt show “Heaven On Earth.” Theater-goers will also be pleased to know (or in my case RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED ) that Norbert Leo Butz and Bernadette Peters will guest star, and sing, in the show’s freshman season.
SMASH’s music is by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman (the force behind Hairspray), and you can be sure we’ll all be humming the tunes to this show for great, long while.
So hopefully you’ll all be tuning in to NBC on February 6, 2012 to watch SMASH. And by the way, this show is good enough to make you forget this is Debra Messing’s second time on NBC with a gay best friend.
Be sure to watch the show’s pilot episode by clicking HERE
- Why NBC’s Smash is poised to be just that (arts.nationalpost.com)
- ‘Smash’ blends drama with original songs in Broadway celebration (ctv.ca)
- Watch The ‘Smash’ Premiere: Does It Live Up To The Hype? (huffingtonpost.com)
- ‘Smash’ review: NBC series lives up to title (sfgate.com)
- SFgate.com’Smash’ review: NBC series lives up to title (sfgate.com)