by Erin Strecker
Sorry, McKinley High. There’s a new musical show in town, and it’s loud, dramatic, emotional, engaging and captivating—and there are no regionals in sight. "Smash," the musical drama about the making of a musical—with some drama!—finally aired last night after being advertised pretty much non-stop. I kind of loved it.
The show takes place around the mounting of a new Broadway musical concerning the suddenly-everywhere Marilyn Monroe. (Seriously, I kept expecting Michelle Williams to walk through the audition doors to throw her hat in the ring.) Successful musical writers Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Broadway star Christian Borle) are working on a new collaboration. Enter Ivy (Megan Hilty), a chorus girl from another of Tom’s productions. She has her sights on being a star, and she definitely has the voice—and the look—for the part.
There’s no business like show business however, and from the get-go, "Smash" set up a lot of conflicts for down the road. While working on this brand-new top-secret Marilyn project, Tom’s assistant taped Ivy singing a demo and the footage wound up online. Bad news bears. Or it should have been, but people, particularly one hard-to-please critic, loved the track, and instead of quickly killing the project, the musical is now on the fast track for production.
Julia and Tom needed to hire a director, and they give a chance to Derek, a well-known but difficult to work with guy whom Tom obviously has some bad history with. Tom doesn’t like him but agreed to give him a shot, with Ivy playing Marilyn. Derek staged some incredible choreography to the first original song, “The National Pastime,” and I was completely hooked. On Ivy. On a Marilyn Monroe musical. On the show. And especially on the cute chorus guys.
Julia felt the same way I did, and she offered the director the job. Which means they’ve now got to find the actual Marilyn who will be their star in the full-length production. Enter Karen (Katharine McPhee), an Iowa transplant working as a waitress while waiting for her big-city dreams to come true. In addition to her show-stopping voice, she has a show-stopping-ly attractive boyfriend who helped her “practice” being all sexy as Marilyn Monroe. She went out for the Marilyn part (sans the costume), sang Christina Aguilera's “Beautiful” and blew everyone away. She got a callback. So did Ivy. It’s time for a diva showdown.
Before Karen could celebrate her callback, the director told her to come by his apartment. Like, now. She innocently showed up, where he told her he wanted to see the sexy side of Marilyn. Besides learning that somebody is a total skeeze, Karen went to the bathroom, put on his shirt and sexily performed “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” for him. But just as he went to kiss her, she pulled away, looking disgusted and left. And that’s how you show gross men that you’re a heartbreaker.
In addition to the drama with the musical, the characters’ personal lives were also on display. Karen clearly wants her parent’s approval of her Broadway dreams, but they aren’t coming around so easily. She also isn’t sure how serious she should be with her charming, available and seemingly perfect boyfriend. In addition, Julia is balancing family issues (she and husband want to adopt a baby!) with the constant pressures of the show, and another producer (Anjelica Huston) is worried about losing her reputation, and assets, during a bitter and public divorce.
All this before the callbacks! The episode ended with both Ivy and Karen singing “Let Me Be Your Star,” an original tune I’ll definitely be humming on the subway for the rest of the week. The musical numbers from their fictitious Marilyn Monroe musical were all top-notch, and I can’t wait to hear more as the season goes on. I can only hope we get to see the full show at some point.
Tell us: Did you watch Smash? Will it be the star of your DVR? And who is your early favorite to snag the role of a lifetime? Do you have McFever Round Two (Welcome back to my television, Katharine McPhee!) or are you pulling for Broadway darling Megan? Sound off in the comments below and on Twitter!