Smash is entertainment for the entrainment world. While the play being produced is engrossing, fun to watch and tug a little tightly at the heartstrings, the real drama of the series is what happens backstage.
I went into the first season of Smash thinking ‘Oh, not another Glee!’ and without much enthusiasm, but I was soon sucked into the world of producing a musical – the fictional ‘Bombshell’ about the life and loves of Marilyn Monroe.
Debra Messing plays Julia Houston, one half of the songwriting team that is writing the songs for Bombshell. Her other half is Tom (played by Christian Borle). They make up the composing and lyrist end of producing a musical.
Contenders for the part of Marilyn include Karen (Katherine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty). Ivy is the veteran of the theatre and should get the part. Karen is the newcomer trying to make a name for herself.
Along the way, the producers decide a “star” is needed to vamp up the selling point of Bombshell, as producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) has sunk seven million dollars into this investment.
Enter Uma Thurman as Rebecca Duvall for five episodes. She takes over the part but has no real stage experience, only starlet power – and it shows. The cast and those picked over for the part of Marilyn are very resentful, especially Ivy, who is dating the director, Derek Wills (Jack Davenport).
Derek explains to Ivy in a heartbreaking scene backstage that it is ‘just business’, his trying to woo Rebecca to keep her happy the production whole. We as the audience see Ivy began to spiral downward, for truth be told, she should have kept the part of Marilyn and owned it.
In another heartbreaking scene, she asks Derek why she wasn’t picked for the part and he tells her coldly, “Because you didn’t have it.”
Added to the drama behind the stage is Julia’s extramarital affair ; her desperate attempt to reconcile with her family; and Karen’s love troubles as she tries to balance a relationship with the demands of the show. Karen’s turmoil is further compounded when Ivy and Karen’s boyfriend/almost fiancé Dev (Raza Jaffrey) hook up in a bar.
Rebecca ends up leaving the show due to a peanut allergy and some misplaced peanuts, and the part of Marilyn is up for grabs again with Karen and Ivy pitted against each other. Derek has to pick one to be Marilyn and the pressure is on for whomever he picks to pick up the pieces and continue on.
Like looking through a mirror and seeing another mirror and then another one, the drama continues to reflect. Even more interesting, is the actual drama behind all of the scenes (Julia’s scarf collection for one).
Season Two looks to be even more interesting as changes will be made with Jennifer Hudson joining the cast and Julia being estranged from her husband.
Smash in engrossing and will hook you in within a few episodes. I was taken in and stayed to watch the entire season.
I highly recommend this show for any fan of drama, musicals, or for anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to produce a show. A soap opera within a show about a very dramatic woman (Marilyn), it works on many levels.
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