Broadway Shines

Broadway Shines on Primetime with “Smash”

“Smash” is the perfect show for any musical theater lover. The NBC drama premieres February 6 at 10:00 pm and revolves around the making of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. (The first episode is currently available to watch online at

The show follows Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee), a struggling actress vying for the part of Marilyn. She has yet to make her big break and makes money waitressing. Karen is an Iowa native whose parents continually urge her to give up her dreams and aim for a more realistic job.

While auditioning for the role, Karen is pitted against a more experienced actress, Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty), and the producers struggle over whether to go for the talent, Karen, or the name recognition, Ivy.

First, though, the show needs to be written. The show is being rushed due to the first song demo being released. The great buzz generated is forcing the show to go through and be quickly finished. The idea originally was just something that writers Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Christian Borle) were just toying with.

Meanwhile, Julia had plans to adopt a child with her husband, something that would require her to slow down her career. She had promised her husband that she would not take on another job, but she just couldn’t drop the idea, causing plenty of tension within her family.

Lastly, we meet producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston), who is sorting out her divorce settlement. The production company she owns with her husband and all of the funding has been frozen until they can come to an agreement on how to divide it. She takes on the play without letting anyone know that she doesn’t exactly have the financial means to produce the show.

“Smash” is continually being compared to “Glee,” but they aren’t similar at all. While both have the musical aspect and themes of being the underdog, “Smash” is very much an original show.

The promotional music video for “Smash” features McPhee singing Christina Aguileria’s “Beautiful,” but don’t expect the show to do too many covers.

The show will feature an original song every week, written by Tony and Grammy award winning composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Similarly to “Glee,” you’ll be able to purchase all of the songs heard on “Smash” on iTunes.

Watching McPhee and Hilty belt out original numbers with amazing choreography makes the television show really feel like a Broadway show. It isn’t surprising that it feels like a real Broadway show when you look at who is behind the scenes.

Creator Theresa Rebeck has written various Broadway shows, most recently and notably, Seminar. The pilot episode’s director as well as consulting producer is Michael Mayer who is most well known for directing Spring Awakening. They also have Steven Spielberg producing, who isn’t exactly a Broadway name but still tends to turn most things he touches to gold.

The acting is fantastic. Houston (an Oscar Winner) and Messing (an Emmy winner) were both great, but that was expected from the veterans. Expect the Broadway talent to continue with various guest stars including Bernadette Peters (Gypsy) and Uma Thurman (Kill Bill).

McPhee and Hilty, playing the actresses on the show, are both newcomers themselves. Both do a great job portraying the anxiety and determination of their characters. McPhee has managed to make the crossover from reality TV (she is an “American Idol” alum) to acting really well.

The writing is really good as well. While it is about the making of a musical, it is almost a domestic drama, too. It shows how a musical affects the personal lives of everyone involved. The writers make you care about every character.

While it would seem that viewers should initially want sweetheart, newcomer Karen to play Marilyn, after seeing Ivy work so hard for the part, the viewers will be torn.

The show feels real, which is probably the best part of it. The drama isn’t overdone and the scenery is real. Both Karen and Ivy’s apartments are realistically compact. Plus, “Smash” is filmed in New York. It isn’t some backlot in Los Angeles designed to resemble the city, and that really helps the show feel authentic.

If the show continues to be as good as its pilot, it’s safe to say that it will be a “Smash” hit.