NBC bets high on SMASH

Smash premieres Monday, Feb. 6 at 10 p.m. on NBC

Debra Messing and Christian Borle play writers developing a Marilyn Monroe musical for Broadway in NBC's 'Smash.' It debuts Monday, Feb. 6
From USA Today: A weekly musical about the makings of a Broadway musical, Smash has the combined producing power of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Chicago, Hairspray, How to Succeed in Business) and movie kingpin Steven Spielberg. The sprawling cast includes Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing and Idol Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee in a show that will mix covers of old hits with original songs by the composers of Hairspray.

That use of original songs, along with its focus on Broadway adults rather than Ohio high school teens, are some of the things that separate Smash from the show it most closely resembles, Glee. Still, Zadan is thankful that Glee proved a musical series could work. “I don’t think that any of us feel that the show is like Glee, but we feel grateful to Glee for opening that door.”

The show-within-the-show that’s the focus of Smash is a musical about Marilyn Monroe. The series begins with the idea, and quickly moves into casting –- a battle between McPhee’s newbie and a Broadway veteran played by Megan Hilty -– and rehearsals. The idea, says creator Theresa Rebeck, is to follow the show through workshops and an out-of-town run in the first season and then take it to New York in the second season.

Of course, first it has to get to a second season, which is no easy task on NBC. Which is one of the reasons why the network is so desperate for Smash to work.

Do the actors feel the pressure? “We’re all aware of the environment,” says Christian Borle, who plays one of the songwriters. “But it feels like no matter what happens, at least we as creators have been able to do something we’re proud of.”

One point of conflict within the show is whether a musical about Marilyn really is a good idea. After all, as one character notes, the idea has been tried before, with disastrous results. In some ways, says Rebeck, the musical’s success isn’t the point. “I don’t know if I can write a great musical about Marilyn Monroe. But I do know that I can write a great TV show about people trying to write a musical about Marilyn Monroe.”


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