On the Set: 'Smash'

2012-21 FEA Smash Katharine McPhee H
Benjamin Lowry

Katharine McPhee receives a hair touch-up from stylist Clariss Morgan before performing the song "Smash!" at the historic St. George Theatre on Staten Island in the season's penultimate episode.

300 background artists. 50 backup dancers. Times Square tourists doubling as extras. Behind the scenes of NBC's awards contender.

A day on the chaotic New York City set of Smash feels a lot like home for the theater veterans who populate its cast and crew. "We try to keep our shoots to just 12 hours!" says director Michael Morris of Smash's "ambitious" schedule (other high-concept TV dramas like Glee typically go more than 16 hours). Adds Tony-winning producer Neil Meron of incor­porating into the series -- about young Broadway hopefuls -- an original Marilyn Monroe-themed musical, Bombshell: "It sharpens your need to make sure all elements are in place." More than 15 original songs were written by the Tony-winning composer-lyricist team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

Smash's theater-trained castmembers, who include Emmy winner Debra Messing, six-time Emmy nominee Anjelica Huston, American Idol alum Katharine McPhee and Broadway star Megan Hilty (Wicked), say the show has offered full-circle moments: "Singing 'September Song' brought me closer to my grandfather, Walter Huston, who first performed it in 1938," says Huston of the song performed by her producer character Eileen Rand. For Will & Grace alum Messing, there was an added perk: "I felt like I was sitting fifth-row center at a Broadway show every day."