If you enjoy theatre, particularly of the musical variety, try to be in front of a television tonight at ten o’clock (or program your DVR) for the debut of Smash, NBC’s new series about the development of a new Broadway musical. As its practitioners well know, theatre offers no shortage of backstage drama. The fictional musical is based on the life of Marilyn Monroe.
Glee, the hit Fox series now in its third season, has propelled musical theatre into the “cool” orbit for a generation of adolescents. Now with Smash NBC is adding a booster rocket to what Fox launched with Glee.
Lagging in the TV ratings wars and starving for a hit, the network of the peacock has placed a huge pile of chips on Smash. The pilot alone cost $7.5 million. Advance publicity has been a blizzard, including several stories in the New York Times.
The production and creative team is a powerhouse, beginning with executive producer Steven Spielberg. Who knew? Spielberg’s first work with actors wasn’t via his family’s 8 mm movie camera. It was as a stage manager riding herd on the casts for Guys and Dolls and Brigadoon at his Phoenix high school. That early exposure to drama planted a bug that has not been entirely satisfied by film and television. With Smash he has how returned to his original dramatic roots.
Series headwriter is veteran playwright and screenwriter Theresa Rebeck, currently represented on Broadway with her own new comedy Seminar. Songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who won Tony Awards for Hairspray, are creating original music numbers for the series. Filmed in New York, the city becomes another character in the series. Smash has given employment to many appreciative stage actors, some well known, some not (yet).
NBC has created an elaborate website to support Smash. From there you can view a four-minute trailer or a 47-minute preview episode. Spoiler alert: the preview episode, which I enjoyed, does include footage that will be in tonight’s premiere.
Spielberg says that if his new television series about a Broadway musical is a success, he intends to mount a real Broadway production of the series’ fictional musical about Marilyn Monroe. Enough layers of reality and fiction for you there?
I’m hoping Smash is a smash. All of us in theatre should be grateful to NBC for backing Spielberg’s show. It can only raise the perceived value of theatre and enlarge our audiences everywhere.