NBC's Smash: 10 Burning Questions Answered

When it comes to midseason buzz, NBC’s Smash is playing to a metaphorical full house. Yet amidst the early kudos and great anticipation the musical drama has been met with, questions abound. Here is what the series’ creators and cast had to say during their Television Critics Association press tour panel about this look at the making of a Broadway musical based on Marilyn Monroe.

HOW REALISTIC IS THE RAPID-ISH PROGRESS OF MARILYN: THE MUSICAL? | When the pilot opens, the songwriting team played by Debra Messing (Will & Grace) and Christian Borle (Legally Blonde: The Musical) is about to take a year off when a starry eyed assistant lobs out the idea of a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. By the end of Episode 2, auditions and callbacks have been held, the lead role has seemingly be cast, and Marilyn: The Musical‘s backer (played by Anjelica Huston) is already talking out-of-town tryouts. A bit fast, no? Glossing over the months it takes to pen a show’s book “was a strategic decision,” admits series creator and Broadway vet Theresa Rebeck. “It was important for us to get to the workshop more quickly, so you could see the community [of Marilyn‘s actors and creatives] coming together.” But once Marilyn reaches that point, things “will proceed at a pace that is not as speedy,” Rebeck says.

AND HOW REALISTIC IS THE BACKSTAGE BACKSTABBING AND SUCH? | Smash‘s wealth of Broadway-bred executive producers “keeps it very authentic,” reports Megan Hilty, who starred in Broadway’s 9 to 5: The Musical and here vies with American Idol alumna Katharine McPhee for Marilyn‘s titular role. “The drama that goes on behind the curtain is way more interesting than what goes on on the stage.” (She let slip zero salacious details, drat.) Adds EP Marc Shaiman, a lyricist whose credits include Broadway’s Hairspray, “Everyone is really committed to make it the way it really is.”

Winter TV First Impression: Does NBC’s Smash Hit All the Right Notes?

IF NOT MARILYN MONROE, WHAT WAS THE MUSICAL-WITHIN-THE-SHOW ALMOST ABOUT? | Rebeck says that Shaiman and his songwriting partner/fellow Smash EP Scott Wittman proposed a stage adaptation of a movie, while she herself was partial to an original piece involving “feathers and sword fights. Somehow between these two poles we wound up with Marilyn.”

WHAT BRINGS OSCAR WINNER ANJELICA HUSTON TO A SERIES REGULAR TV ROLE? | Huston, who plays a veteran producer who has her own reasons for backing Marilyn, explains simply, “It’s beautifully written, it’s a fantastic cast of actors, a phenomenal team of people behind-the-scenes…. I’d be a fool not to participate.”

WHAT ABOUT THAT ADOPTION SUBPLOT…? | While some critics are pointing to a B-story in which Messing’s character struggles to adopt a baby from China as a wah-wah-wahhh spot in an otherwise lively production, the Emmy-winning actress says that personal touch “was one of the things that was most exciting to me when I read the pilot.” With her enthusiasm for Smash as a whole showing on her face, she raved, “The amount of fun I’m having … is so ridiculously off the charts, it’s crazy.”

DOES EVERYONE FEEL THE PRESSURE TO GIVE STRUGGLING NBC, YOU KNOW, A SMASH HIT? | Christian Borle (Legally Blonde: The Musical), who plays Messing’s partner, says that because of its midseason berth, Smash has an inventory of several strong episodes under its belt — “It feels nice to have done so much already.” Rebeck, meanwhile, shrugs off any onus, saying, “Our task is to make great television. The rest of the story is up to other forces.”

NBC’s Smash Lures Uma Thurman For Major Arc

WHAT’S THE SEASON 2 PLAN? | Rebeck says that Smash‘s 15-episode first season will “take Marilyn to an out-of-town tryout, her first really public presentation.” Season 2 would ultimately follow the production to Broadway and raise the question, “How does Marilyn fare in New York?”

DID WE READ SOMETHING ABOUT SMASH‘S MARILYN BECOMING AN ACTUAL BROADWAY MUSICAL…? | Rebeck waved off that recent reportage, saying, “What we are aiming to do right now is write a great television show. [That] is enough of a challenge for all of us.”

WHEN AND WHERE CAN I BUY THE SHOW’S COVER SONGS? | McPhee’s and Hilty’s covers of contemporary tunes will be made available every Monday, on iTunes. (Not coincidentally, Smash airs Mondays at 10/9c, premiering Feb. 6.)

CAN WE PUT THE GLEE COMPARISONS BEHIND US ONCE AND FOR ALL? | EP Craig Zadan notes — as will anyone upon seeing the actual pilot — that aside from featuring performance numbers, the two shows have precious little in common. But seeing as the Fox hit did warm up Cop Rock– and Viva Laughlin-averse TV viewers to a series that blends drama and music, he says, “We feel grateful to Glee for opening that door.”

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  1. Leah says:

    i hate itunes! Amazon MP3 is a million times better!

  2. Josh says:

    One thing I don’t get is how they’ll naturally do the music numbers…Since this show is more down to earth then Glee, will they just have random songs or will there only be like three songs per episode and all of them audition-centric. Plus I can imagine the Marilyn plot wearing thin if it’s more then a season long…

    • Gabe says:

      “Plus I can imagine the Marilyn plot wearing thin if it’s more then a season long…”

      Um what?? The entire plot of the series is the creation of this musical about Marilyn.. Without it, most of the characters would no longer interact with each other as they do while working on the show..

  3. Tay says:

    That’s Katherine McPhee with blonde hair? Wow!

  4. Bethany says:

    I think I’m going to enjoy the show, but I hope one doesn’t have to be too interested in Marilyn Monroe to stick with it. As a twenty-something woman, I never understood her appeal.

  5. Liz says:

    I wish NBC would move Smash to any other night or any other time not opposite Castle and Hawaii Five-0. I really want to check this out, but I am not giving up either of the other 2 show that occupy that viewing/DVR time period.

  6. Drew says:

    Actually, I think that a good number of people are so turned off by Glee that they’re less likely to try Smash. Glee took what could have been great and ran it into the ground in less than one season, creating one of the worst shows currently on television.

    I’m looking forward to Smash. I want there to be a good musical, because it’s a perfectly legit genre that television doesn’t do very often. Buffy and Scrubs had great musical episodes… here’s hoping that Smash is more along those lines than the Glee lines.

    • Tarc says:

      Since Smash and Glee have nothing to do with each other (at all), how would that be? (Because an afternoon soap opera sucks, all nighttime dramas are hated? Wha?) Besides, Glee is tremendously popular – and, for the most part, deservedly.

      • Drew says:

        Glee is horribly written and run by d-bag producers. The show had tons of potential and people got excited to see a musical on TV, but it was botched by the enormous egos of the people making it.
        Say what you want. Enjoy the show all you want. But the fact of the matter is, a large, ever-growing portion of the audience views Glee as a bad joke… That’s why Community did a whole episode depicting it as a bad joke.

        For everyone who had high hopes for Glee and saw it fail, a bitter taste remained. Some of those people will hesitate to watch any musical series after that. Not me. I am looking forward to what looks like an excellent series. However, there are some people who gave Glee a shot and don’t want to make the same mistake twice.

        Glee had a great pilot. It has a cast with talent. However, ego destroyed the series before the first season was over and it has only gotten worse since. It has been losing its audience pretty steadily. If you like the show, great. I’m not bashing it, just stating my opinions, and some facts. The truth is, a lot of people dislike Glee. A lot of people downright hate it with a fiery passion and want nothing more than to see that series erased from the memories of everyone who ever saw it… I’m somewhere in the middle, m’self.

  7. Donna says:

    I believe the point anon was making is that this article is about the show “Smash” and not itunes.

    • KevyB says:

      Because WITHIN the article it states the songs will be available on iTunes. It doesn’t say they will be available on Amazon. Does anybody on this site actually READ the articles?

  8. Super excited for this show. Think it will likely live up to its moniker as people do seem to be talking about it. The talent behind it is pretty incredible, too. Exciting to see Messing return to TV and get a regular fix of Anjelica Huston!

  9. ultimate troll says:

    Ugh…yeah I’ve seen the adds for this. Fine, I’ll give it a go.

    Now when is “Awake” going to see the light of day???

  10. Maddy says:

    Is it me or does Katharine McPhee seem a little old to be playing an ingenue?

  11. Arlene says:

    Wonderful show.

  12. Jessica says:

    It’s you. She’s 24.

  13. Danielle Notaro says:

    In the picture here who’s the drag queen? Oh. That’s right that’s Katherine McPhee next to a real woman.

  14. KL says:

    It’s NOT just you. She will be 28 next month.