Smash, the NBC television drama that has been a frequent topic of discussion (and sometimes derision) among Broadway fans, will not return to the small screen next season. The final episode of the series will air on May 26.
Starring American Idol alum Katharine McPhee as a young performer pursuing her Broadway dream, Smash spent two seasons charting the creation and development of a Broadway-bound musical about Marilyn Monroe called Bombshell. The sometimes soapy, sometimes comic drama offered a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Broadway, spotlighting songwriters, directors, producers, and more.
Created and produced by playwright Theresa Rebeck (Dead Accounts), Rebeck was replaced with showrunner Joshua Safran (Gossip Girl) in the show’s second season, but ratings continued to fall. During its run, the cast of Smash boasted many Broadway regulars, including Christian Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher), Jeremy Jordan (Newsies), and Megan Hilty (Wicked). Other series regulars included Anjelica Huston, Jack Davenport, and Debra Messing.
It will be a Will & Grace reunion on NBC’s primetime Broadway soap Smash this coming season when Sean Hayes (who played Will & Grace‘s flamboyant scene-stealer Jack McFarland on the successful sitcom) joins the much-buzzed-about television show featuring Debra Messing (Grace herself) for a multi-episode arc.
Hayes, who recently impressed Broadway in the revival of Promises, Promises as office drone Chuck Baxter, will play a character not unlike himself, a comic television star who is making his Broadway debut. Though unlike Hayes, who wisely chose a musical comedy to show off his Broadway chops, his Smash counterpart will be starring in a musical version of the seductive drama Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
It has been reported that Sean Hayes’ character, named Terrence Falls, will cause difficulty’s for Smash‘s talented-but-overshadowed Broadway trouper Ivy (Megan Hilty). But it’s not yet known how much screen time he will share with his old TV castmate Debra Messing, who plays Broadway show scribe Julia.
Soon NBC will be alive with The Sound of Music, and it won’t just be an annual airing of the beloved 1965 film. The peacock network has announced plans to air a live broadcast of a new production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic. Smash producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will produce the television event, which will feature actors singing live. Casting is expected to begin right away. The air date has not been determined yet.
Zadan and Meron have a history of bringing favorite musicals to television, having produced TV movies of Annie, Gypsy, The Music Man, and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. But, unlike those movies, The Sound of Music will be a live broadcast. Of course NBC is not new to live broadcasting, with shows like Saturday Night Live and even 30 Rock doing the occasional live show. Back in the 1950s, broadcasting musicals live was done frequently on network television, and NBC hopes to bring back that spirit of spontaneity.
Fans of the film The Sound of Music, which stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, may be surprised to discover that there are several notable differences between the movie and the original Broadway stage version, which is likely the version that NBC will be producing. The stage musical features the songs “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop It,” but does not include Maria’s song “I Have Confidence,” which was written specifically for the movie. In place of the film’s duet “Something Good,” the stage show has a song called “An Ordinary Couple”. Some of the other well-known movie songs are shifted to different scenes in the stage show.
From the beginning, Smash, the NBC TV show about the creation of a Broadway musical, has employed many real-life Broadway stars. Christian Borle (a recent Tony Award winner for his role in Peter and the Starcatcher), Brian d’Arcy James (the man behind the big green costume in Broadway’s Shrek), Will Chase (Rent, Billy Elliot), and Meg Hilty (Wicked) are among the Broadway regulars that have populated the world of Smash, giving it a special air of authenticity for musical theater fans. The recent news that d’Arcy James and Chase won’t be series regular next year, though, made it seem that the show might be chipping away at the genuine Broadway babies.
Theater fans can relax — for now — though, since it appears that Smash is continuing its policy of hiring actual musical theater performers. One of the most recent cast additions in Jeremy Jordan, the break-out star of the 2011-2012 season for his roles in Bonnie & Clyde and Newsies. On Smash, Jordan is set to play a Brooklyn-born singer (perhaps borrowing some of the tough-guy, New York attitude that he is currently showing Broadway audiences in Newsies?).
And now there is news that Jennifer Hudson will be joining Smash. The former American Idol contestant wowed musical theater lovers in 2006 when she played Effie White in the film version of the Broadway hit Dreamgirls. Although Hudson has not actually starred in a Broadway production (her appearances on the Great White Way have been limited to a couple special benefit concerts), she will be playing a Broadway star named Veronica Moore in a multi-episode arc.
With any luck, Smash will be employing even more Broadway and musical theater talents in the future. Given that the TV show films in New York City, it creates the possibility for working Broadway performers to do both theater and television. Of course the extent to which they can do both may depend on how demanding their roles are and what the show’s shooting schedule is like. Jeremy Jordan, for instance, plans to continue playing his part in Newsies while also filming Smash. But Christian Borle, who has a starring role on Smash as a composer, will soon be departing Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher to begin filming.