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After an introduction from entertainment president Robert Greenblatt, the massive cast and creatives for NBC’s musical drama Smash — totaling 16 — crowded the stage, touching on how the series will be an accurate representation of a Broadway production, how Glee set the stage for musicals on TV as well as the plans for what could happen should the series see a second season.
Here are 10 things to expect from Smash.
1. Grand plan. Creator/executive producer Theresa Rebeck noted that the grand plan for Season 1 is to get the play with in the show — about the life of Marilyn Monroe — up and running to an out-of-town tryout and its first public presentation. “The second season, if we’re lucky enough to get one, would be Marilyn comes to Broadway and how it fares in New York,” she told reporters. Asked if there could be a new play that begins being workshopped should the series earn a renewal, Greenblatt later told reporters that it’s unclear at this point. “The Season 2 plan is Marilyn goes to Broadway and after that we’ll decide if a new show should emerge,” he said. Added Shaiman: “The show itself is telling us; it’s not like we don’t think ahead. What we thought nine months ago is changing week to week as the actors bring what they bring.”
2. Importance to NBC. Producers — and Christian Borle, who plays playwright Tom Levitt — didn’t directly address questions about the show’s importance for the fourth-place network. “NBC has been very clear that what they want out of us is great story telling and they trust us to do that,” Rebeck said. “They gave us a beautiful cast, songs and choreographer. That’s our task: To make great television. The rest of the story is up to other forces.” Since the show is a midseason series, Borle noted that with 10 episodes already in the can that no matter what happens, “it feels nice to have done so much already.”
3. Broadway-bound? Could the Marilyn musical make it to the Great White Way? Rebeck noted that isn’t her focus at the moment. “What we are aiming to do is write a great TV show,” she said. “What ever happens in the future, who knows. … This show is enough of a challenge right now.”
4. Realistic portrayal. With a pedigree that includes award-winning playwrights, Smash will be as realistic as possible to what it’s like to actually mount a Broadway play. “Everyone is very committed to making it be the way it really is,” executive producer and co-lyricist Marc Shaiman noted. Added co-star Megan Hilty, who plays aspiring Marilyn Ivy Lynn: “There’s so many people that come from this world that it keeps it very authentic.” So interesting, in fact, that she joked there should be a camera backstage to catch the drama behind the curtain.”
5. The Glee affect. Executive producer Craig Zadan tipped his had to the Fox dramedy in paving the way for a show like Smash to exist. “When Ryan Murphy did Glee, he broke a great barrier, he allowed networks to really believe that there was room for a dramatic comedy in one show week after week,” the Chicago and Hairspray producer told reporters. “I don’t think any of us feel that the show is like Glee but we feel grateful to Glee for opening that door.”
6. Why Marilyn? Hilty, whose Broadway credits include Wicked, said Monroe’s life has the tragedy, heartbreak, glamour, love and drama that make for a good stage play. “[They’re] all things that people want to watch and are intrigued by which is why we’re still taking about her today,” she said. “It’s another amazing reason to make this show.”
7. Dueling Marilyns. The pilot sets up Katharine McPhee’s Karen Cartwright and Hilty’s Ivy Lynn going head-to-head for the title role in the play but who ultimately lands the role may change over the course of the season. “Each of them creates a different Marilyn,” Rebeck said of McPhee and Hilty, noting that during production on the pilot, there were Team Ivy and Team Karen fans. Added Greenblatt: “The casting of Marilyn [revealed in Episode 2] may not be who it is at the end of the season.”
8. The original songs. Shaiman and exec producer/co-lyricist Scott Wittman noted that Smash‘s songs speak to what’s happening on the series and, unlike in the theater, the format of the show still provides an opportunity for it to make it onto the show. “The director can say it’s not going in the show but it still gets on the air,” Wittman said.
9. The Spielberg influence. Executive producer Steven Spielberg was unable to make the session but appeared in a taped message. Touting the cast and his positive experience with Greeblatt, Spielberg joked that he’s “not the first person who comes to mind when you think about musical theater.” He later called Smash “our own little illusion” that gives a “peek behind the curtain into the exciting world of Broadway.”
10. Messing is back. Debra Messing returns to the network that aired Will & Grace as Julia Houston, a playwright who with Borle’s Tom scripts the Marilyn play. The actress noted that it was her character’s family story line outside of work that she most related to. “Here’s woman who is passionate about her creative life and needs that part of her life fulfilled but also is a proud mother and wants that home life and wants that balance,” she said. “All our characters go through difficulties and challenges. We have no idea what’s happening next. It’s all interesting and it feels authentic.”
Smash premieres Monday, Feb. 6 at 10 p.m. on NBC. Will you watch?
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