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InDepth InterView UpDate: Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman Discuss BOMBSHELL/SMASH Reunion Concert, Plus CHARLIE On Broadway & More


One of the most popular stories of the year so far, the unexpected announcement of a special one night only charity concert performance of a fan favorite musical-within-the-series from NBC's musical series SMASH, BOMBSHELL, to benefit the Actors Fund, is already a huge hit here on BroadwayWorld, and, now we bring you an exclusive chat with two elemental figures in the creation of the project, songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, all about the hotly anticipated evening. As part of our conversation, Shaiman and Wittman offer up a slew of new details on what plans are currently in place for the unprecedented SMASH reunion as well as share first reactions to the wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that has already racked up more than $230,000 in donations in only a few short days, having begun with a goal of $50,000 when the event was first announced last week. Additionally, Shaiman and Wittman parse the finer points of the BOMBSHELL score and outline what fans can expect from the songstack on the evening as well as preliminary staging and presentational plans and also what the momentum engendered by BOMBSHELL could lead to in the future, near and far. Plus, Shaiman and Wittman comment on the recent rousing performance of SMASH standout "I Can't Let Go" performed by Jennifer Hudson on the 2015 Academy Awards, share an update on CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY on Broadway and discuss the ongoing regional success of CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. All of that and much, much more!

More information on The Actors Fund is available at the official site here. More information on the BOMBSHELL Kickstarter campaign is available at the official site here.

Also, check out my exclusive InDepth InterView UpDates from earlier this week with The Actors Fund president Joe Benincasa, available here, and producer Tim Pinckney, available here, for even more about BOMBSHELL.

Let's Be Bad

PC: Since SMASH came ouy just previous to the binge-watching phenomenon, do you think part of the huge reaction to the BOMBSHELL concert is due to people having binge-watched it?

MS: Well, I don't know that they are doing that with SMASH. Are they?

PC: Some comments on recent articles have mentioned it, actually.

MS: I know that I just binge-watched two things in the past week, so I guess it fits my schedule...

SW: I just binge-eat! [Laughs.]

PC: That's hilarious.

MS: I do both - I binge-eat while binge-watching.

PC: What did you binge-watch, Marc?

MS: UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT - but I haven't finished yet because I switched over to THE JINX.

PC: Marc, The Actors Fund producer Tim Pinckney told me earlier this week that you first approached him with this idea while SMASH was still on the air.

MS: I don't remember if it was still on the air, but yeah - I kept thinking of all of those nights that Seth Rudetsky had done and we had just made the BOMBSHELL cast album at the time. It was like, "How do we publicize this some more? How do we remind people that Scott and I actually wrote a whole score for an entire musical here?" So, it was probably out of frustration that I talked to Tim about it - I felt like, "I just wish there was a way we could remind people of this! Wouldn't it be incredible if we could do the songs onstage for one night with a big f*cking orchestra?!"

SW: And The Actors Fund seemed the ideal place to go with the idea.

PC: It sounds heavenly - and now heaven is coming to earth.

MS: Yeah! But, you know, to be honest, SMASH was an experience such that once it was over, it was over, and Scott and I were moving on to other things, so I just kind of let it slide with The Actors Fund. Then, lo and behold, Craig [Zadan] and Neil [Meron] had basically the same idea a year and a half later.

PC: And now it is actually happening.

MS: Yes, now it is happening. You know, we had kind of put it to bed, but...

SW: A lot of people still sing songs from it, too - of course, Megan [Hilty] still sings from it in her concerts. So, it's nice that the songs live on now in another world removed from SMASH.

PC: Jennifer Hudson reprised a SMASH song you wrote, "I Can't Let Go" on this year's Oscars, just prior to the BOMBSHELL announcement, as well. It seems like SMASH is back in the ether again.

MS: That was Craig and Neil again - they're hoarders! They're musical comedy hoarders. [Laughs.]

SW: They can't let go! [Laughs.]

PC: Too funny.

MS: They just don't throw anything away and find smart ways to re-use things. So, luckily for Scott and I, on the Oscars this year it came out of nowhere - them calling us and saying, "Do you think you guys can rewrite these lyrics so that this song can make sense as an In Memoriam?" And, so, we said, "Well, let's try!" and we did it. So, that came out of nowhere and now this came out of nowhere. And, we're just thrilled about both.

PC: Given the smashing reaction to BOMBSHELL, would you be open to doing a follow-up THE MUSIC OF SMASH-type concert highlighting some of the other material you wrote for the show?

MS: Yeah, this can be a whole weekend event! It can be in three acts or four, like THE ICEMAN COMETH! We could definitely fill in with an entire act between the two-act BOMBSHELL that would be all the other songs - like the songs we wrote for the DANGEROUS LIAISONS musical for Sean Hayes; and, I am so proud of the song we wrote for Megan Hilty for that, too.


MS: I love how "A Letter From Cecile" really showed off Megan's operetta-like singing.

PC: Plus, the songs written for Jennifer Hudson, as well.

MS: That's right! "Momma Makes Three" and then another one that ended up getting cut that she sang the sh*t out of called "Take A Picture, It Lasts Longer".

PC: Your demo of that along with your whole essay on writing the various SMASH songs is so fascinating, Marc.

SW: Wasn't that wonderful?!

MS: Thank you.

PC: Will any of the cut songs or alternate versions of any BOMBSHELL material be considered for the concert?

MS: No. As a matter of fact, we are going to have to cut a few of the BOMBSHELL songs because there are just too many for one night. It's just too much.

SW: We're trying to spread the wealth around a little bit, too.

PC: Is "Our Little Secret" and/or the whole JFK plotline going to be excised, do you think?

SW: That's one of them.

MS: Yeah, that's probably one of the songs that will fall by the wayside if only because it's a kind of laid back song and in this kind of show with all of these big numbers, it's going to be hard when the song is not a huge showstopper or an unbelievably intimate song. So, that one probably doesn't belong in this kind of night. Of course, I wish we could keep them all, but there are two or three songs that I think we are just not going to use - it would just be too much for the audience.

PC: Is Debra Messing set for "The Right Regrets"? This will be her first major concert appearance performing a song live, I believe.

MS: Well, we're not going to tell you everything! [Laughs.]

SW: We can't give it all away yet! [Laughs.]

MS: We can tell you that clearly SMASH employed an unbelievable amount of great Broadway talent and by some bizarre twist of fate many of them did not get to sing, but, for instance, just the actors playing the two stage managers on the show - for BOMBSHELL and for HIT LIST - are two of the greatest voices on Broadway nowadays. So, we are hoping that we can make use of a lot of the people who were on the show and so we are finding that we may have to steal a song or two away from Megan or Kat [McPhee] to give them something. We really do want to feature as many people from the series as we can.

SW: We recently had a sort of mini-reunion last year when the New York Pops did our evening, and, so, it was a lot of fun to all be back together again - we had forgotten how much we missed each other.

PC: It was a spectacular night.

SW: It was - and not only did we have the SMASH reunion that night, but we had the HAIRSPRAY reunion, too. It was really special for us.

PC: Will you be following the order of the BOMBSHELL album for the concert presentation? Will "Cut, Print... Moving On" be the Act One closer?

MS: Well, that song opened Season Two of the series, so we might reconsider the act placement.

PC: How did the Kickstarter idea come about in the first place as far as you know?

SW: Well, I have been in LA working with Bette [Midler], so I sort of missed the Kickstarter part of things myself.

MS: We actually didn't even realize that The Actors Fund needed to do things like that. We just thought, you know, "Oh, these evenings just pay for themselves," but that was probably very naïve of us.

SW: Usually there is a corporation involved who will underwrite everything.

PC: Are you overwhelmed by the response? Is it true you are joining the Kickstarter yourself just to secure a ticket?

MS: I wasn't kidding when I said that! [Laughs.]

SW: It's very nice to be wanted! [Laughs.]

MS: To be honest, I'm also Jewish enough that even with the incredible response that that got, people are saying, "This just shows that the show should have stayed on the air forever!" and I say to them: if the amount of people who joined the Kickstarter watched the show, it would maybe keep it on on Univision for five minutes in the middle of the night. I mean, you need millions and millions and millions of people for a network show to succeed! [Laughs.]

PC: A drop in the bucket.

MS: Yeah - just forget I said any of that, though, because, nevertheless, it's so great to see how rabid people are for this night. Honestly, it's hard to even conceive of what this night is going to be like.

PC: Have you two directly worked with The Actors Fund before on any events like this?

SW: This is funny, but years ago I think I might have been an escort for one of those A NIGHT OF 100,000 STARS events at Radio City. I think that was the last Actors Fund event I did.

PC: Of course HAIRSPRAY and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN had Actors Fund benefit performances.

SW: That's right - we did Actors Fund nights for HAIRSPRAY and CATCH ME also.

MS: And soon we will both have to go to the Actors Fund retirement home ourselves! [Both Laugh.]

PC: So you are preparing for the future, as well!

MS: I mean, this evening might be so exciting that we both might have strokes and have to be sent right to the Actors Fund home right away!

PC: In looking at the logistics of the concert, is there one number in particular you are anticipating being the trickiest to pull off successfully?

MS & SW: No! [Both Laugh.]

MS: That's one of the reasons Scott is co-directing with Josh Bergasse, actually - it's all part of figuring out what we can accomplish given the limited time we have to do this.

SW: We will figure it out, though - yeah. And, that's also part of what makes it fun - it is just for one evening, so there is no sort of master plan; it's just about having a great night for the charity and for those there that night.

PC: On the series, there were two main Marilyns but several other Marilyns utilized in that particular depiction of BOMBSHELL, so will you be using the multiple Marilyns concept again?

SW: That's right. There could be dancing Marilyns and singing Marilyns - there's going to be lots of Marilyns.

MS: And hopefully you've given your Kickstarter money, Pat, so you'll get to see! [Laughs.]

PC: On that note, what are your personal opinions on the possibility of another performance being added or the potential to film it and make it available in some way?

SW: Well, no one has discussed that with us yet.

MS: I think that to film it would add a whole other level of union negotiations. Of course, we only have the theater for one day, so to film it would mean bringing in a whole other crew and all kinds of equipment and then we'd have to have a whole other deal with the unions, too. So, I can't imagine that that is in the realm of possibilities.

SW: I like the idea that it's theatre and it's ephemeral and it will be gone after the performance. I like that about it - that makes it really special, I think.

MS: But, I do admit, after that evening that they had for us at Carnegie Hall, it was so spectacular and such a thrilling night that I immediately felt afterwards like, "So, we don't get to do this again next Monday?!" [Laughs.]

PC: "Let's do it all again," right?!

MS: Right. So, I'm sure I'll have a similar feeling after this evening.

PC: Will logistics preclude doing a second performance, as well?

SW: It's also about who is available and how the dates work out...

MS: Unless they have some idea of how that would happen, I don't know. Would they open up the dress rehearsal? Add a matinee? I don't know. I mean, some of the people won't even be arriving until that day, so I don't know. We haven't even thought that part through yet.

PC: Usually there are a few big production numbers amongst smaller-scale scenes in concerts such as this. Do you have some of the production numbers you are planning in mind yet?

MS: Well, we can't tell you exactly what yet - we can't give away everything! But, yeah, Josh is very involved and not everything is going to be people standing in front of microphones singing. So, yeah, we will be rehearsing it in a rehearsal hall before the performance and the whole bit.

PC: Given the prominence of "Hang The Moon" and Marilyn's mother in BOMBSHELL, are you ideally hoping to get Bernadette Peters to appear in this concert?

SW: We are hoping so - yeah, yeah, yeah. She is filming her series right now, so we are trying to figure it all out.

PC: Have you seen MOZART IN THE JUNGLE? It is sort of SMASH set in the classical music world.

SW: I saw the pilot when it was on Amazon, but I haven't seen the whole series yet - that is definitely one that I am planning on binge-watching. Many of the SMASH directors did a lot of episodes of that show, too, and we are still close to a few of them.

PC: Would you like to get Leslie Odom, Jr. back, as well?

MS: We'd like to get everybody back who can sing their asses off up there onstage.

SW: Hopefully. And, if it's not Leslie, it will be someone else fabulous.

PC: What songs are you most anticipating seeing performed live?

SW: Well, we haven't seen anybody sing "Let's Be Bad" since it was actually on the air.

MS: Yeah, that was a really special night - the night that "Let's Be Bad" was on. I remember that Scott and I were watching it in real time here in our living room and both of us just kind of looking at each other and going, "Wow, that was just on TV! Can you believe it?! Can you believe such a huge production number was just on a TV series and millions of people watched it?!" [Pause.] It was just an incredible feeling. So, yeah - that one in particular will be fascinating to see how we can pull off. Obviously, it can't be exactly like it was on the show, but it will be its own new animal.

PC: Will this concert be a prototype for a licensed version of BOMBSHELL?

SW: No. It is really just for this one night. I mean, in the beginning when this all started and we first started working on the show with Theresa [Rebeck] and Steven [Spielberg], there were thoughts of, "Oh, at the end of this the show will move to Broadway," but, it ends up that when you are writing these kind of things you are writing more for the characters on SMASH than you are for the actual Marilyn story of the musical. So, this is being created entirely for The Actors Fund and for this evening - there is no template or any idea of, you know, "Let's put a book together for this."

PC: So you have already decided against a licensed version of BOMBSHELL?

SW: Well, it's not for this evening to determine that. It's just a one night charity concert.

MS: Yeah, for us, we made the decision that we were going to look at the whole experience as, "This is what we did," and then move on to other projects.

SW: And The Actors Fund is the perfect thing to do this for.

PC: The excitement level is certainly high - people could not be more enthusiastic, from the president of The Actors Fund right down to the fans, new and old.

SW: Well, we are very excited, too.

MS: It's very exciting.

PC: How did you find out that it was actually happening?

SW: Craig and Neil are in touch with us and they let us know.

PC: This is an unprecedented number in theatrical fund-raising as far as I am aware - $230,000 with three more weeks still to go.

MS: I know! Maybe Scott and I will eliminate producers from now and just Kickstarter our next shows. [Laughs.]

SW: It's so nice to know that people still want this to happen so much - it's really good to know.

PC: Lastly, I just wanted to touch on your big anniversary with CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY in the West End. Are Broadway plans still afoot?

MS: Oh, yeah!

SW: We are going over in two weeks to workshop some new material.

MS: Yeah, we are workshopping some new stuff and it is definitely coming in the season after next.

PC: Have you decided upon your next project yet?

MS: We haven't assigned it yet, but we are definitely flirting with a lot of different musicals right now and hopefully we can figure out a way to do them all. So, right now, we are just seeing what ones rise to the top first. Also, everyone that we work with is so busy that scheduling becomes almost the deciding factor sometimes.

SW: Right now, it's been all about getting CHARLIE ready to transfer, so we've been focusing on that with Peter Darling since Sam [Mendes] is off making the new James Bond movie.

PC: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN recently wrapped a successful tour, as well.

SW: I know! We went to a run-through before they went out. Also, we recently went to Lincoln, Nebraska, where they have an international thespian conference where it is all high school kids and they all meet there for a week there - hundreds of them - and put on their productions for each other. We went because one of the high schools was doing CATCH ME IF YOU CAN - it's actually become a really popular title for high schools to do, which is fabulous. You know, it's really fun to see a 17-year-old trying to be Frank Sinatra.

PC: Would you two be open to a live TV production of HAIRSPRAY or CATCH ME IF YOU CAN with Craig and Neil someday?

MS: I have to admit that when I saw that they have the lists of "What should they do?" I thought, "Gee, I wonder if they would ever consider doing HAIRSPRAY?" But, you know, there are so many great, classic musicals for them to get to first before HAIRSPRAY.

For even more on BOMBSHELL, be sure to stay tuned to BroadwayWorld for more exclusive conversations in the coming weeks as we anticipate the biggest performing arts event of the year!

Photo Credits: NBC, etc.

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