Similar to Glee in its appeal, Smash is a 45 minute comedy-drama full of vibrant musical numbers that vocalise the characters' inner troubles and triumphs as they struggle to smash their way into the limelight on Broadway. Where it differs from the high school musical dramedy is the maturity of its subject matter and honest approach to explaining the pleasures and pitfalls of a stage show career through authentic characters and toe-tapping original scores.
Smash's ensemble of colourful characters are brought together by the potential of a killer new show. Creative partners Julia Houston (Debra Messing) and Tom Levitt (Christian Boyle) are writing a musical about the life of Marylin Monroe to storm Broadway and bolster their already famous names. Overseeing the proceedings is experienced Producer, Eileen Rand (Angelica Huston), who hires serial seducer and all round bad boy Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) to complete their creative team as Director and Choreographer. With such a talented and experienced bunch of showbiz experts on hand, all they need now is a Marilyn.
Naturally, the course of true art never did run smooth. The search for the perfect Marilyn creates an intense rivalry between the potential stars of the show; the hugely talented but experience-light Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee), and the powerful, blonde and busty Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty). As well as leading lady drama, the production hits several major bumps in the road as personal and professional relationships collide and Eileen's divorce causes severe financial strain for the show.
Truly honouring the spirit of the phrase "the show must go on," Smash is a genuine and involving drama that celebrates creativity and drive. Based on Garson Kanin's book of the same name, Smash gives delightful insight into the musical theatre industry and is addictive and inspiring television.
The best thing about Smash is that the musical within the musical, Bombshell, is actually created before our eyes (there was even a rumour flying around that the creators wanted to actually release the show on Broadway at the end of the season - although that hasn't happened as yet). We see the original musical numbers presented with extraordinarily creative direction in a touching story that is engaging by itself. This attention to detail doesn't go unnoticed and gives the show authenticity and creates for the audience a strong connection with the characters as we root for their success.
Adding to this authenticity is the choice of cast, who all have extensive experience on the New York stage. The vocal and acting performances within the show are all tremendous, making their success within the show completely believable. Katharine McPhee in particular is a different league of talent. She brings a refreshing innocence to the sharky world of showbiz to ease the audience's troubled thoughts that everyone with talent must be a little bit evil, and she has a jaw-droppingly incredible voice.
The music within the show consists of the original numbers from Bombshell (which are often repeated, but approached in different ways to avoid becoming stale) combined with some more popular songs or Broadway ditties that the actors perform outside of reality, as musical expressions of their internal monologues. This never feels contrived because the performances are always stunning, they only occur from the Bombshell vocalists rather than the whole cast, and if you're a musical theatre fan you'll be used to unlikely bouts of singing and dancing anyway. There is a soundtrack available if you're interested.