From what I’ve read, NBC’s new series Smash is already doing well in the ratings. It’s no wonder. With the success of Glee, I’m surprised it took another network this long to put together another musical t.v. series. Now that Glee has shown that it can be done, you would think everyone would be jumping on the bandwagon.
Smash is a good entry into musical television. Having just watched the pilot, I re-lived my glory days as a member of a repertory theatre company. Sure, it wasn’t Broadway, but if you’re a theatre geek like I am, Smash is going to be your wet dream.
Imagine this: a t.v. series about two musical writers who are putting together a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. It’s also about actresses competing for a coveted role, an English director that may be difficult to work with and the two writers themselves, one who is attempting to adopt a baby with her husband.
Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Christian Borle) are the two writers who are inspired to write the musical after an off-the-wall comment by a personal assistant, Dev (Raza Jaffrey). The musical begins to take off and the two bring on board the lovely and very Marilyn-like Ivy (Megan Hilty) to work on helping them bring the songs to life. Things really start to get rolling once producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) gets on board and hires director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) to take on the show.
But it’s an out-of-work actress/waitress Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee) who steals the show, showing up almost out of nowhere to the Marilyn audition. She blows everyone away with her understated performance.
Let’s take a breath here. Look at that list of actors above! How could this possibly be a bad show, right? Everyone is absolutely wonderfully cast and even McPhee, an acting newbie, has a presence that I would not have expected from her. She’s got the vocal chops, obviously, but she also seems to be a pretty adequate actress, too.
What makes Smash so wonderful to watch, though, are those musical numbers being created for the fictional Marilyn: The Musical. From “The National Pastime,” (yes, the baseball song) to the final “Let Me Be Your Star,” the original music is downright awesome. Of course, that’s all due to them being written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who are both theatre veterans and Tony award winners.
My only complaint is some of the cliche stuff. Karen is a waitress from the Midwest, with parents who don’t support her dream. Of course, she has a boyfriend that does. I’m also pretty sure the other actress up for the role is pregnant (she’s seen puking before one of the auditions and that’s ALWAYS a sign of pregnancy in a plot). Julia promised her husband no work for a year so they could focus on an adoption, but obviously, this musical has already taken over her life. There will be marital strife. But the husband will go along, because he has no choice. Tom and the director hate each other. This is all the typical “life in the theatre” story that we’ve seen before.
So did you watch the Smash pilot? What did you think? Will it get a full season?