Lauren A. – TwoCents Reviewer
Katie – TwoCents Reviewer
NBC’s new musical drama SMASH screened in Dallas Monday night to an audience clearly relieved to walk away thinking three words: nothing like Glee.
SMASH is the story of the team (and two talented starlets) behind Broadway’s newest musical-to-be based on the life and loves of Marilyn Monroe. The show has already made headlines for being the newest network Glee knock-off, but where Glee has glitz and gimmicks, SMASH comes on the scene with heart and maturity.
The first season pits two equally deserving girls – American Idol’s Katharine McPhee as NYC newbie Karen, and Broadway’s “9 to 5: The Musical” star Megan Hilty as perpetual chorus girl Ivy – against each other as they vie for the role of Marilyn. SMASH may be on to something here – the show’s creators have (rather brilliantly) taken what viewers delight in from Idol and other talent competition shows and written it seamlessly into a scripted drama. We can expect to have our #TeamKaren and #TeamIvy Twitter hashtags at the ready. Where Ivy looks the part and seems the natural choice, Karen really shows Marilyn’s heart and story.
The SMASH pilot features two musical theatre writers who take a break from taking a break to toy with the idea of a Marilyn Monroe musical. When their demo leaks, the writing duo learns that the musical might actually have what it takes to make it to the stage and begin navigating the waters with high power producers, temperamental directors, and leading lady hopefuls. The premiere episode does a nice job of introducing the characters and premise without confusing the audience or leaving too many unanswered questions. The winner of the coveted title role is not determined by the first episode’s end, and it appears most of SMASH’s freshman season will be spent answering the question, “who will play Marilyn?” It seemed the rest of the plot moved forward a little too quickly only to harp on this one facet for a whole season. At some point the show must go on!
Rather than building a drama around snazzy bits and pieces of pop culture, SMASH puts its dramatic chops around the plight of the Great White Way and lets the glamour and pizzazz come out naturally. This could be the key to keeping a musical series on the air for more than a few episodes. The heart and careful crafting behind the show is evident, most likely the result of employing a cast and team with extensive Broadway backgrounds.
The audience in Dallas appreciated SMASH’s embrace of sometimes campy humor (isn’t that something us Broadway fans all love… in small doses?) and well-timed jabs at recent Playbill newsmakers like Kristin Chenoweth and the doomed Spider Man musical. While the premiere focused mainly on the stage, there seems to be ample room for growth in characters such as Debra Messing’s songwriter Julia, Karen’s lovable and devoted boyfriend Dev (Raza Jaffrey), producer and near-divorcee Eileen (Angelica Huston) and bad-boy director Derek (Jack Davenport).
Whether SMASH will strike a chord or fall flat seems to hinge on how well the show can carry its behind-the-scenes storyline, and whether writers can draw us into characters other than Karen and Ivy without pulling in too many directions with underdeveloped subplots, a common curse of the large ensemble shows. With instant-soundtrack-quality musical numbers and a surprisingly touching and relevant take on the current Marilyn Monroe fad, SMASH looks to have true star power.
Can’t wait to see SMASH for yourself? Catch the premiere Monday, February 6 on NBC, and leave your TwoCents below!