FLASH FRIDAY: The Best Of SMASH (So Far)
Since NBC's musical drama series SMASH is kicking into high gear as the Marilyn Monroe musical that forms the core of the show's story approaches its first workshop presentation on Monday night's episode - with the highly awaited appearance of Broadway legend Bernadette Peters coming next week, as well; playing the mother of the Marilyn musical star, Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) - now is the ideal opportunity to, well, "Fade in on a girl / With a hunger for fame / And a face and a name to remember," to quote Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's crown jewel in a diadem of a songstack for the show-within-the-show, BOMBSHELL. The show-within-the-show is better that most scores on Broadway these days and that is a credit to the Tony-winning tunesmiths and their ability to make musical theatre that is polished and professional, yet totally fun, bawdy and accessible, as well. Look no further than this week's "History Is Made At Night" or last week's "Let's Be Bad" - to say nothing of the pilot's twofer of titanic theatrical prowess in the form of "The National Pastime" and the afore-quoted "Let Me Be Your Star". Plus, we have to remember, SMASH has not one Marilyn, but two, so the future possibilities of who will be singing these songs and how they will be presented is totally unknown. As we shall see in the clips below, "Let Me Be Your Star" will now have its third iteration on the show, acting as the opening number in the workshop presentation as Ivy Lynn belts it to the rafters, ballad-style - not unlike the Karen/Ivy stage sequence presented in Episode 2 as a dream. Using just the example of "Star", we can see how rich and rewarding it is to further explore the depths of drama and heights of wit amply apparent in the sometimes caustic, sometimes campy and always enjoyably, embraceable unique work of Shaiman & Wittman on their songs for SMASH. The story setting them up, drama surrounding and contained within them - with the meta-narrative of the behind-the-scenes going on we are privy to acting as another layer - makes the production numbers the most brightly glittering stars of the SMASH universe. Katharine McPhee's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", "Call Me" and "Rumor Has It", as well as Hilty's "Crazy Dreams", were all viable and entertaining covers in their own right, yet the original songs are what make SMASH really sing - and zing, sting and ring-a-ding-ding.
Also, don't miss my preview of the forthcoming InDepth InterViews with SMASH stars Megan Hilty and Anjelica Huston available here.
So, let's take a look back at the utmost musical highlights on SMASH to date as we quickly approach the mid-point of Season One of the musical series.
For the first inning, let's start off by taking a look ahead to next week's sure-to-be spectacular show (at least based on the generous glimpses of the episode below!), first, with a thrilling clip featuring Bernadette Peters taking on a powerhouse Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim song as only she can - GYPSY's unforgettable Act One closer, "Everything's Coming Up Roses".
Also, here is our first glimpse of the diva battle between star-on-the-rise Ivy and her past-her-prime mother, Leigh.
Ramping up the tension even more - as if it were not heady enough - see Leigh make a grand entrance at the workshop, as Derek (Jack Davenport) introduces the Marilyn musical and we get our first glimpse of how BOMBSHELL on Broadway may actually begin as Ivy belts out "Let Me Be Your Star". This clip is an illustration of how March Shaiman and Scott Wittman have crafted the musical numbers to act as commentary on the characters on both SMASH and the show-within-the-show itself.
Compare that iteration with "Let Me Be Your Star" as seen as the finale of the pilot episode of the series - perhaps the strongest and most cohesive of all the impressive musical sequences on the show to date, or, even, the version in the second episode (which is referenced in the chilling final moment). Check out the pilot episode below for the original songs that made us fall in love with SMASH at first sight - not only the "Let Me Be Your Star" finale, but also Ivy's incomparable "The National Pastime" and our first glimpse of "Never Give All The Heart", which Hilty herself confirmed to me yesterday will be presented in full on a later episode, though not necessarily by Ivy! The twists and turns of who sings what in BOMBSHELL shall seemingly be never-ending - yet, such is the way it works behind-the-scenes on Broadway quite often.
Last week on SMASH, we were treated to one of the most memorable and sonically alluring original BOMBSHELL songs to date - the Marilyn/Joe DiMaggio (Will Chase) duet, "History is Made At Night". With a wink and a nod and a twinkle, Chase and Hilty sell it to the hilt - before a bump in the rehearsal road fouls it all up. The full version is available on iTunes, for those who want to hear it all - though, given the way SMASH works, we may very well be hearing and seeing much more of this late-50s-styled gem soon enough in the coming weeks!
Juxtapose that rousing and catchy chorus-driven duet with the much simpler and down home "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" here. Which musical retelling of Marilyn and Joe's dating and mating rituals do you prefer? Shall we perhaps see another duet with the entrance of a new DiMaggio in upcoming weeks?
The most complex and complicated of all the musical numbers on SMASH to date is most probably "Let's Be Bad" from Episode 5. On the harried set of SOME LIKE IT HOT, Marilyn is a hot mess - and, popping pills, dishing out attitude and arriving hours late is just the start of the insanity!
While Ivy certainly has talent and star to spare, Karen Cartwright has her own special sparkle, too. Will the understudy eventually usurp the current Marilyn musical lead? We shall have to stay tuned to see! "The 20th Century Fox Mambo" is clear proof she can glam-up, pose and vogue pretty fabulously, as well - let alone strut and sing her gold sequin-drenched derriere off, too!
Bringing together all of the cast of characters of SMASH in one stupendous scene, here is Ivy leading the swinging "I Never Met A Wolf Who Didn't Love To Howl" with special guest star Nick Jonas joining in at the end (with electric guitar).
While the bread and butter on SMASH for Broadway babies is undoubtedly the big BOMBSHELL production numbers and rehearsal sequences, SMASH has had its fair share of impressive cover songs that have been weaved into the tapestry of the drama, as well - most notably, the clips below.
First, here we have Karen (McPhee) taking on Blondie's "Call Me", composed by Oscar-winning composer Giorgio Moroder in slinky and come hither style.
Next, Karen dons a white man's shirt and little else for a "Mein Herr"-esque "It's A Man's Man's Man's World". Sizzling!
Third, here is Karen's spunky and spicy take on Adele's "Rumor Has It".
Closing out the Karen section with her most memorable moment to date, here is her first audition set to the strains of Linda Perry's international pop smash made famous by Christina Aguilera, "Beautiful". A star is born - but, will she wind up as Marilyn?
A look at the best covers on SMASH to date would not be complete without a look at Megan Hilty's take on AMERICAN IDOL winner Carrie Underwood's "Crazy Dreams". Beautiful, indeed.
So, what has been your favorite musical number we have sampled so far from the show-within-the-show on SMASH, BOMBSHELL? What has been your favorite cover performance? What songs would you like to see the cast of SMASH take on in future episodes, whether classic musical theatre songs like the GYPSY number coming on Monday or pop covers of either new hits or classics? Given that we have Bernadette Peters, the first appearance of two-time Tony-winner Norbert Leo Butz (most recently for Shaiman & Wittman's CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, incidentally), a purportedly "epic" Bollywood sequence, and, of course, the long-awaited Boston tryout of BOMBSHELL, there is a lot to look forward to on SMASH this March, April, May, and, let's hope, far beyond even that.