on 25 June 2012
Smash is without doubt one of the freshest and most ambitious new shows to come from The US in years.
The creation of a new Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe offers an exhilarating and dramatic backdrop to the complicated lives of the shows stars and creators. Particular mention must go to Wicked star Megan Hilty as Broadway star Ivy, Debra Messing as lyricist Julia and Anjelica Houston as tough Broadway producer Eileen.
A class act!
on 6 September 2012
SMASH is an interesting show to try and review because of its polarising effect on the critics. It has been NBC's highest rated Drama series in recent years, had one of the most acclaimed pilot episodes.
And then things went a bit wrong.
I will say that I love SMASH, it is an exciting show with great new music, a wonderful premise and some brilliant acting. The first season is ultimately flawed however, with some unnecessary characters, some character decisions put in just to drive the drama, and some episodes which were not as high a standard as the pilot suggested. This is not to say it is not good, or enjoyable, because it definitely is. It's just flawed.
I still rate SMASH highly though. The reason for this? It, at times (not always), manages to capture that feeling of working in a live theatre production. That sense of ensemble, rivalry, camaraderie, last minute changes of direction, the struggle to rewrite, the inability to see flaws because they are so close to the production. That is what live theatre is about, and for large parts of the series, SMASH manages to bring this across, to capture that adrenaline-fuelled feeling of being in the theatre. Of creating for the stage. Of performing for large audiences and trying to make sure that the theatrical statement is realised. Bring in the fact that the music was written by the incredible Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman (Shaiman responsible for the Broadway hit musical Hairspray, based on the John Waters film, which was later turned back into a hit movie based on the musical) shows that the calibre of talent involved in this production is remarkably high. Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing, Christian Borle, and Megan Hilty all give accomplished performances, creating nuanced and flawed characters who have problems with their personal lives dictating how they work in the theatre.
The reason I would recommend SMASH is because I think it has so much potential, it is a good base line for a show which looks set to improve so much more in season two. All the news and casting notices for season two seem to be suggesting it will return to what it should be - a show about creating theatre, and not about courting character drama. Watch this season and you're sure to fall in love, and be ready for season two when it finally hits the television.
on 2 June 2012
Love. love, LOVE this show, it's been eviscerated by the critics, mostly I imagine because some guy called Steven Spielberg is attached to the project, it made it pretty high profile.
I waited to watch this until I knew it had been renewed, I hate getting into a show & then see it cancelled, luckily it has been. Now I'm not saying Smash is perfect, some of the story lines have gone a bit off course & I would agree that the whole show can feel a little un-even at times. That said; I forget all that when they do a musical number, the show has such high production values & plenty of talent, I happily do the horses to the '20th century mambo' - then try to get it in out of my head for days, so catchy...
As I said the casting is brilliant, there seems to be some dislike of Katharine Mcphee across the pond, as she was an 'idol' runner up, maybe she was super obnoxious on there, I don't know, I never saw it. Personally I think she plays the naivety of Karen Cartwright extremely well & think the US critics should perhaps give her a break, if nothing else she can certainly sing, the season finale was, well I wont spoil but amazing!
I love Debra Messing & Christian Borle's chacters, the collaborative writing team is very believable & arguably the most solid relationship in the whole show.
My favourite character though has to be Derek Wills, the Simon Cowell esque director/choreographer, played to perfection by fellow England native- Jack Davenport, I just can't get enough of Derek's snark & ultimately his dedication to the project.
I'm so pleased it's been re-newed for a second season & cannot wait to get my season 1 dvd, as I said there are weaknesses but the foundation is solid & I have confidence it will be made even better then it is now.
A fun show with great songs, extremely watchable & likable characters.... what's not to love?
on 27 November 2012
A TV show about a stage musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe was never going to be a darling of the purist critic circles, so there's no surprise that the reviews of Smash have been a bit savage. And if you're one of those people who really hates the theatre and musical numbers and theatrical types being grandiose and flamboyant, this show will be like taking a cheese grater to your eyelids. So all ye, abandon hope here...
BUT... if you have even a single theatrical cell in your genetic make-up, there's a huge amount to adore in this lavish, big-hearted, bitchy, smart and often quite tender version of Glee For Grown Ups. For starters, there are some fantastic original musical tracks, starting in the first episode when Megan Hilty bursts into "The National Pasttime", moving straight on to "Let Me be Your Star", and then carrying on through the rest of the series. It's a true testament to the writers that the original songs work a lot better than the covers which are loosely (sometimes very loosely) peppered throughout.
But it's the cast that makes Smash: the non-singing cast is excellent - Debra Messing, leaving 'Will and Grace' far behind, is a complete stand-out as the show's warm, kind-hearted but emotionally confused writer Julia, and she's strongly supported by Anjelica Huston and Jack Davenport as the driven, ruthless producer and director (respectively). On the musical front, Christian Borle showcases his brilliant Broadway pedigree as the composer Tom - he plays it natural and low-key on the acting front but delivers a true show-stopper when called to in a later episode. You can see the showman lurking just beneath his skin waiting to upstage his castmates in every scene (and he really could), but he keeps the genie in the bottle as a true professional should.
Katharine McPhee has been unfairly mauled by the critics as the ingenue Karen Cartwright. McPhee's a strong singer and a capable actress and delivers and develops her character well, although her own 'newness' in a dramatic role does occasionally show through - there are a few moments where she looks out of place and self-conscious. But that's nitpicking, there's not a lot of them.
The true star of Smash - by a long way - is Megan Hilty. As an actress, she manages to make Ivy likeable, vulnerable, jealous and bitchy, and Hilty handles the undulating arc of her character from desperate wannabe to fledgling diva to brokenhearted reject (and back again) with consummate ease. As a singer, her presence in the musical numbers is nothing less than amazing: pitch-perfect voice, perfect diction (if you don't believe me, listen to her duet with McPhee on 'Let me Be Your Star' with your eyes closed), vampy va-va-voom delivery. It's a star-making turn, and Hilty knows it. She brings 100% to every song, every episode. She's pure Broadway, at its best.
Smash is not without its flaws. A couple of the musical numbers don't just tetter on the edge of trite, they topple right in (an especially stupid Fame-style number in a bowling alley particularly irks, as does a really stupid and unnecessary sub-plot involving a techno number in an industrial garage). Some of the junior supporting cast, who seem inexplicably and totally void of the drive and determination which propel the two leads, are under-written. And Bernadette Peters drops in (as a former Broadway doyenne, no less) to belt out a number and promptly exit stage left, with a minor and under-written role that should have been developed more.
But it's fun. Huge fun. Dazzling at its best and mildly irritating at its worst, Smash will excite and delight those who approach it for what it is: a musical TV show about a musical stage show. I can give no clearer warning than this. Disliking Smash for not being a different kind of show is like sending your cheesecake back because it doesn't taste like roast beef. You have been warned... ;-)
on 2 July 2012
This is a great show that is still being shown by the Wonderful sky atlantic. Kind of an adult Glee. The music and lyrics displayed so far make me want to queue for tickets to a fictitious show! c'mon we all would if this transferred to the stage!
on 16 August 2012
SMASH was shown on Sky Atlantic in the UK over the past few months and it's something we got into right from the start. Let me say first it's also been well timed and relevant as I am in a musical myself, performing on stage in September, and the dramas off stage are very true in the amateur dramatics world as well as Broadway, believe me!! Right from auditions, SMASH details the creation of a Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe and two leading ladies, Ivy(Megan Hilty) and Karen(the brilliant and very good looking Katharine McPhee, why do people hate on her so much? Probably because they haven't her talent and are jealous methinks!) who are battling for the lead role of Marilyn and contending with personal issues at home. Watch out as well for Jack Davenport as the director/choreographer Derek Wills, who is a character you love to hate but at the same time he can be highly amusing. And surprisingly believable! Best thing though is the soundtrack and I wish this Marilyn musical BOMBSHELL could be staged for real one day! Highly recommended.
on 19 August 2013
I'll be honest that when my wife bought this I wasn't overly convinced I would enjoy it. I quite like Glee though so I was prepared to give it a go.
Now I am forced to eat humble pie. This is an excellent show.
Firstly the storyline feels far less contrived than the likes of Glee, with musical numbers fitting in seamlessly with the plot. The songs themselves are and excellent mix of covers verses fantastic original material. The cast is really strong, a massive credit to the show that they could pull in such a great cast, nice to see really top notch seasoned professionals alongside talented newcomers, and great to see British actors once again stealing the show in the States. Jack Davenport is wickedly funny.
I guess I will have to add this show to my list of guilty secrets.
1. Take a great idea - creating a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe and taking the viewer behind the scenes.
2. Write a sharp, witty script.
3. Get yourself a first-class director.
4. Sign on a brilliant cast featuring silver fox Jack Davenport, a revelatory Debra Messing and scene-stealing Anjelica Huston.
5. Cast two Marilyn `wannabes' with sensational voices and stir some star-power into the mix with a bravura performance by Uma Thurman.
6. Ensure your supporting cast are uniformly excellent.
7. Give the show some terrific song-and-dance numbers.
8. Develop several engaging storylines.
9. Get the balance of fun-to-pathos exactly right.
10. Work on Series 2 immediately - the show must go on!
on 22 April 2013
To be frank, I'd forgive the show anything because I love shows about theatre and anything that raises the profile of musicals the better. However, I'll put my weakness for song-and-dance aside for the moment and discuss it as a show.
The premise of Smash is that we watch the creation of Bombshell!, a fictional musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. The two girls vying for the part of Marilyn are Ivy, a star in the making who has always been stuck in the chorus (Megan Hilty) and newcomer Karen (Katherine McPhee), an average girl from Iowa with a great voice but no Broadway experience. As the girls rehearse, they find their lives paralleling Marilyn's. What is interesting is that we also see the problems with the production from the eyes of the creative team and their backstage tensions as well.
The pilot presents the show as being a relatively authentic portrayal of Broadway. Many of the cast are Broadway performers, even oddly enough ones playing non-singing characters, so there's a nice feel of authenticity. However, authenticity seems to go out of the window near the end. In one plot point, a performer walks out on their contract during their technical run to do another show and the creative team just allow them to leave without pointing out the fact that the actor is breaking the terms of their contract.
Plot is not really this show's strong point. The process of the musical coming together is intriguing and exciting but the backstage drama is pure melodrama. Every plot point revolves around rather superficial relationship issues. To an extent I didn't mind this as initially it was quite plausible but it became too narrow and made the characters seem superficial. Series 2 is going to have to explore the characters more deeply, particularly the character of the director, Derek (Jack Davenport), a sleazy fox who criticises everyone for ruining his vision of the show. This is the sort of character Davenport always plays, and he does it very well. However there's an odd moment near the end where Derek's character completely changes.
Not that the characters aren't interesting. McPhee and Hilty as the rival Marilyns are the most well-written characters and I enjoyed how they developed throughout the show. It's also interesting to have an older actress playing such a prominent part; Angelica Huston plays Eileen, the steely-haired producer who has to manage the show and her divorce. Karen's boyfriend Dev (Raza Jaffrey) is refreshingly supportive of her theatrical ambitions, which makes a change from the stereotype of the boyfriend who immediately wants to crush her dreams. And Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Christian Borle) make a great writing partnership.
As for that all-important finale, it hints at more than it says.
So, that's the dramatic content done. Let's get back to the song and dance, because after all, they are creating a musical. The show doesn't shy away from it either; we get a proper feel for the musical. The writers of the songs are the partnership who worked on the songs for Hairspray and the songs really do sound like they could be from a musical. The musical could be more unified in its style- there's actually a fun plot point where Derek tries to add a techno-style song- but at least the songs are good. The choreography wouldn't look out of place on Broadway and luckily they had Broadway performers to do it.
What didn't entirely work was when the characters started singing pop songs in their everyday lives. I didn't mind the many kareoke scenes as I imagine aspiring musical theatre stars would do things like that but sometimes the spontaneous singing didn't really work. The original songs were much better.
As for the DVD itself, annoyingly there's no English subtitles. You do get some extended scenes that show you the staged version of the full song and a couple of deleted scenes, plus some very brief featurettes. When the DVD lists these special features and then announces 'and more!', 'and more!' means a lightly amusing gag reel. So, the special features are welcome but not essential. A proper making-of documentary or cast/crew commentary would have been great.
on 17 April 2012
this TV series is amazing!! great story, great songs and fantastic acting. it revolves around creating a Broadway musical. Which is an amazing concept.