I hate it when I’m wrong.
Just ask my fiance. It’s a running joke between us.
And I particularly hate it when I’m wrong about something of which I was so very sure. The most recent incident of this nature? NBC’s Smash. The behind-the-scenes tale of creating a Broadway musical looked so very asinine in all the previews. Was I prejudiced going in to the premiere Monday night? That would be a resounding yes. Why? Oh, let me count the ways…
1. It’s about Broadway. And of course this wouldn’t be a show about a play. Oh no, it’s about musical theater. The fluff! The vibrato! The choreography! The absurd notion that people simply burst into song and dance when the occasion calls for it!
Okay, before any musical-lovers who are reading this experience a rage blackout, let me be clear. Theater was my LIFE in high school and college. I minored in drama. I seriously thought about pursuing an MFA in acting. Perhaps this is why I have limited patience for musicals. Many equate Broadway with musical theater, when it is so much more than that. But I digress…
2. Weak plot. From the previews, it appears that the bulk of the plot hangs on the competition between two women vying for the role of Marilyn Monroe. If this is a tv show about a theatrical show, why not explore the multitude of challenges, frustrations, conflicts, and financial stresses of actually getting a show to The Great White Way?
3. Katharine McPhee. I find her so thoroughly aggravating it is a chore to watch her on screen. Maybe – just maybe – this has something to do with her doe-eyed character Karen Cartwright. The Midwest-transplant-aspriring-actress bit is painfully cliché. Her scrawny limbs and pop-music voice would never obtain the role of Marilyn. When I see clips of her dressed as Marilyn Monroe, it looks like a little girl playing dress-up. I cannot take her seriously. Especially in comparison to Megan Hilty, who plays Karen’s rival (Ivy Lynn), an actual Broadway actress with powerful lungs and impressive acting skills.
You could say I was severely prejudiced against Smash. I secretly wanted it to fail. Imagine my shock when I found myself engaged with the episode. I didn’t despise it! There were, in fact, aspects about Smash that I actually liked. (Even now this is painful to type. Like I said, I hate being wrong. Oh, my pride.)
1. Megan Hilty. She crackles on screen. She’s talented, dynamic, captivating. If this show is meant for its viewers to choose a side, I’m Team Ivy all the way.
2. Anjelica Huston. Yet another dynamic woman on screen. Huston oozes class and fortitude. Her character – a producer in the middle of a toxic divorce – is strong, ambitious, and a bit of a diva. This is a woman who gets things done. Period.
3. The direction, script and music are all the work of Broadway veterans: Marc Shaiman, Scott Whitman, and Michael Mayer. The show’s creator, Theresa Rebeck, is a playwright whose plays have appeared on Broadway – all of which add a pleasing layer of credibility to Smash.
4. It is better (so far) than Glee. Far too many people have called Smash the “Glee for grown-ups,” a comparison made meaningless by overshare and repetition. That being said, the musical numbers make coherent sense in Smash. A top-40 hit isn’t squashed into a cheerleading scene because it offers a chance for some choreography. Admittedly Smash is still too glittery, glossy, and dripping with high production value to be taken 100% seriously. Yet, while I wasn’t enthralled with the two musical numbers in the premiere, they were entertaining enough to hold my attention.
And entertaining enough to warrant a second look next week.
Sigh. I cannot believe I just said that.
Did you catch the premiere on Monday night? What did you think?