"SMILE" the Musical

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"SMILE" the Musical#1
Posted: 5/23/18 at 1:09pm

Did anyone here see it? I just came across a demo recording of the score and quite enjoyed the music. It seems that a cast recording was never even made for it, which I always think is a shame. It should also be noted that a young Jodi Benson, voice of Ariel in "The Little Mermaid", was in it. Considering that the lyrics and music were Marvin Hamlisch & Howard Ashman, anyone think there may be a revival one day?

 

Updated On: 5/23/18 at 01:09 PM
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"SMILE" the Musical#2
Posted: 5/23/18 at 1:39pm

I never saw it, but I heard some of the songs on "Unsung Musicals" and really liked them. In fact, I used the title song for a tap number I choreographed my college dance group.

I'd seen the original cast of "Crazy for You" on Broadway, so it was especially cool for me to have both those stars doing the "Smile" numbers!  

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"SMILE" the Musical#3
Posted: 5/23/18 at 1:42pm

Musicals Tonight (or maybe it was Musicals in Mufti?) did it 5-10 years ago.  There are a handful of great songs, but it has a pretty terrible book.  I'd love to see someone take a pass at a new book that is closer to the tone of the original film.

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"SMILE" the Musical#4
Posted: 5/23/18 at 1:50pm

I saw the movie ages ago. All I remember is it was very funny and Barbara Feldon having a sudden revelation and shooting her husband.

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"SMILE" the Musical#5
Posted: 5/23/18 at 1:51pm

It's a cute show with a pleasant score that had something of a troubled road to Broadway.  If I remember correctly, Carolyn Leigh was the original lyricist for a couple of workshops before being replaced by Ashman, who also ended up writing his first (and only) book for a Broadway musical, which is where I think the fundamental flaw lies in the show.  It's a little show that tries to be big and while the source film has something of a cult following and is an interesting watch for its cast and as a time capsule piece, the book for the musical just didn't have the bite it needed for a satire and never really settled on tone.  With a revised book, and staged on a more intimate scale (closer to something like Spelling Bee), it could be fun.

"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
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"SMILE" the Musical#6
Posted: 5/23/18 at 2:03pm

Very interesting! Would anyone care to see a revival? Or at the very least, maybe an Encores! production?

Updated On: 5/23/18 at 02:03 PM
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"SMILE" the Musical#7
Posted: 5/23/18 at 2:07pm

The new (wonderful) HOWARD documentary directed by Don Hahn makes it very clear that Howard and Marvin Hamlisch did not get along. Hamlisch behaved like a pompous egomaniac with no sense of theatre or character development, and Ashman, usually in control at the WPA (where LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS originated and where he was artistic director for a long time), was treated poorly and condescendingly. The producers were inexperienced. More experienced hands like "The Shuberts" and David Geffen lost interest. Hamlisch took control of the whole operation, or so it seems. 

 

Jodi Benson, who played Doria, recalls in the doumentary that Hamlisch disappeared after the not-so-good reviews came out. Didn't bother with anyone. It was left to Howard to boost company morale, which he did, and keep the thing afloat for 46 performances. Feeling badly that the young ladies in SMILE were out of work and their Broadway dreams were dashed, he offered them all the chance to audition for his next project... the voice of Ariel in THE LITTLE MERMAID. Benson got the part. 

 

 

 

 

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"SMILE" the Musical#8
Posted: 5/23/18 at 2:13pm

Matt, if I recall correctly, Leigh died after they had written virually an entire score - on Barbra Streisand's last album Encore, she recorded "Any Moment Now" with Hugh Jackman, which is from the Leigh version.

I recently saw a very good college production with a full orchestra, and it is enjoyable. However, it's different from a great, or even good, musical. With satire, you should never have to play the scene as satire - sincerity should make the point much better than mugging or winking ever can. With Smile, if you play it sincerly, it comes off as sincere and as a glorification of Reagan-era values, which is especailly bizarre when taking account of Maria's exploitation in the second act. That's the real trouble of the show for me. The tone doesn't go far enough, even with slight revisions from the Broadway version.

That being said, I will say that I think the Broadway version is much better than what is currently licensed, although I am fond of the rewritten finale ("Antalope Valley, your Young American Miss is coming home", though I wish Doria still ended the show alone instead of having the ghostly choir sing "Disneyland".

"Sticks and stones, sister. Here, have a Valium." - Patti LuPone, a Memoir
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"SMILE" the Musical#9
Posted: 5/23/18 at 2:47pm

Matt, if I recall correctly, Leigh died after they had written virually an entire score

I believe you are correct.  I knew there was something behind the sudden change, but I couldn't recall what it was.

"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
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"SMILE" the Musical#10
Posted: 5/23/18 at 2:50pm

Just out of curiosity, being as how all 3 of the main creators have passed, does that lower it's chances of being revived?

Updated On: 5/23/18 at 02:50 PM
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"SMILE" the Musical#11
Posted: 5/23/18 at 3:39pm

This has to be my favorite "forgotten" musical.  The score is wonderful - "Shine" and "Until Tomorrow Night" are awesome.  

The flaws of the book are real - especially the "adult" characters.  The treatment of Maria (the Mexican-American character) would make the musical unproduceable, professionally at least.  

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"SMILE" the Musical#12
Posted: 5/23/18 at 3:39pm

It may, in fact, raise them. The changes between the Broadway version and licensing version (which even in this thread we can see people debating between) were points of contention between the creatives, and with them gone there's less likely a holdout from producing the show on a larger scale.

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"SMILE" the Musical#13
Posted: 5/23/18 at 4:08pm

BobbyD3 said: "This has to be my favorite "forgotten" musical. The score is wonderful - "Shine" and "Until Tomorrow Night" are awesome.

The flaws of the book are real - especially the "adult" characters. The treatment of Maria (the Mexican-American character) would make the musical unproduceable, professionally at least.
"

Right..... because today in 2018 no one in the USA would ever even THINK of doing or saying anything negative about a Mexican-American person!!  That particular aspect of the show makes it seem more timely now than ever before.

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"SMILE" the Musical#14
Posted: 5/23/18 at 4:15pm

I think it's a shame there was never a recording of the show. I have Ashman playing the piano and singing the entire score on a double CD of his work. Am happy I have that at least.

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"SMILE" the Musical#15
Posted: 5/23/18 at 9:50pm
If nothing else, I hope that the show at least gets an official recording someday. There’s some great songs in there.
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"SMILE" the Musical#16
Posted: 5/23/18 at 10:28pm
I love Smile! The score is so surprisingly strong. I think an entirely new book would have to be written for it to work, but it makes me sad that we never hear songs like “Typical High School Senior” or “Until Tomorrow Night” because no one really knows what to do with the property.
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"SMILE" the Musical#17
Posted: 5/24/18 at 1:34am

I saw Smile! on Broadway. I had seen the film beforehand, and in comparison, it paled. I agree with the above comments about the book and it not quite knowing what it was trying to be. The score was wonderful though, and I remember having goosebumps hearing, Disneyland, for the first time.

I appreciate threads like this. It brings back old memories.

ARTc3 formerly ARTc. Actually been a poster since 2004. My name isn't Art. Drop the "3" and say the signature and you'll understand.
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"SMILE" the Musical#18
Posted: 5/24/18 at 4:56pm

Thanks for sharing! I hope to see a production of the show one day :)

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"SMILE" the Musical#19
Posted: 5/24/18 at 6:51pm

i thoroughly enjoyed the movie and thoroughly hated the show.  I saw it in a preview, so I was not impacted by the terrible reviews.  If there was any satire in the show, I don't remember it.  I just remember a lousy script, a bunch of mediocre production numbers, a cast lacking a single standout performance -- I don't mean a great one, just one that made any sort of a positive impression... and no discernible energy, either from the stage or the audience.  It truly deserved its flop status.

 

 

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"SMILE" the Musical#20
Posted: 5/24/18 at 9:59pm

Did the duet ANY MOMENT NOW ever make it to the final stage version of SMILE?

 

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"SMILE" the Musical#21
Posted: 5/25/18 at 5:22pm

No, Any Moment Now was not by Hamlisch and Ashman therefore never made it past Carolyn Leigh's death.  Everyone seems to forget that the movie was a HUGE flop.  Michael Ritchie and I once compared its grosses to the grosses of my low-budget film - we won and believe me we didn't make that much. :)

As to the score, I obviously loved it enough to record at least four or five songs from it, including having Jodi do Disneyland on the first Unsung Musicals CD - that CD has three songs from the show, and a subsequent volume has Maria's Song.  Can't remember if I did one other.  

When I called Marvin about doing the three songs (none had been recorded so we had to have his permission), his first sentence was, "Why does anyone want anything from that flop."  I told him why and he liked me and finally said yes after I told him that Mr. Sondheim had just opened his entire trunk to me for Unsung Sondheim.  When I broached doing a studio cast recording, that didn't fly with him.  

I finally saw a production somewhere on the East Coast, and it was pretty terrible in just about every way in terms of its book and being a bore.  The film knew what it wanted to be, the problem with that being that no one wanted what it wanted to be and stayed away in droves.  The musical, in trying to have it all ways from Sunday, was simply pablum and had no point of view.  I wish I'd seen the Broadway production in its entirety - I have about thirty minutes of it, taped professionally for reviewer clips and I actually love the staging of Shine, which is fantastic and actually reeks of Michael Bennett, and frankly I wouldn't be surprised if he'd quietly done it, because nothing else in the show is of quite that quality or style.  When I've queried people about it everyone is suddenly very silent, but let's just say I've heard enough to know that it could be true.  Disneyland is the standout song - the Unsung recording kind of made it a standard, which is nice.  The title song is perky, In Our Hands is lovely, Maria's Song is a bit of a mess and isn't as funny as it thinks it is, and the opening number as done on Broadway is quite good, and Shine is fantastic.

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"SMILE" the Musical#22
Posted: 5/26/18 at 12:39am
I often think of the show as an earlier, more ambitious but less successful, ancestor of Spelling Bee.
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"SMILE" the Musical#23
Posted: 5/28/18 at 8:53pm

Saw it on B'way. Coming in, it seemed the sure thing, a great premise, that composer/lyricist combo, even the cast. And 60 Minutes or the like did a terrific TV piece. It had a wonderful score, even on first hearing, and a fine physical production. But you couldn't land on someone to follow through the whole evening. The film is really about the adults, and the musical just couldn't make a persuasive case for their stakes. Yet there they were, in the middle of the action, and their songs aren't good. The score as a whole, inside the pageant, is still a keeper, and I agree about "Til Tomorrow Night," the title song, and of course, "Disneyland," which reminded me of my childhood (early 60s).  I've heard the licensed version isn't very good. But they also fiddled too much with "Big," didn't they? 

"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
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"SMILE" the Musical#24
Posted: 5/29/18 at 9:58am

I remember it well. I knew two girls in the cast, who thought it would run for years. Even that long ago, I liked the movie (I love it now) - it's a great black comedy about the grotesque artificiality of the American Dream. Sadly, the musical seemed to be a whole-hearted embrace of the American Dream. I don't think Ashman or Hamlisch had the really dark satiric nature to adapt the film without making it a candy-colored cartoon.

"Disneyland," out of context, is a good song. But in the context of Smile, the song should show that Doria has been hardened by her ugly childhood, and that she knows Disneyland is a worthless lie (but a lie that she can use to get ahead). The song as it is conveys none of that. It's merely another standard power ballad of defiance. And it's a perfect analogy for the show as a whole.

I think that converting a cold satire into a warm, huggy, sentimental valentine may not be advisable, if one seeks commercial success. Ashman and Hamlisch would have done better to write an original, more conventional story about pageants.

I also remember the show having several shameless plugs for their commercial sponsor (Nike? Reebok? one of those things), and it seeming pretty tacky.

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"SMILE" the Musical#25
Posted: 5/29/18 at 11:35am

Yes, I remember the 60 Minutes tie in. One reason I was so surprised the show turned out to be a dud. It seemed to have everything going for it. And yes, the film WAS a flop (though it may have achieved cult status over time). I remember it played out in a matter of a couple weeks. Blink and you missed it...