SMASH: 1.01 “Pilot”
I’ll confess one thing: I’m a theater-phile. That’s right. I love the theater. I used to audition, find myself in the occasional play or musical. I surrounded myself with friends who have the same love for theater. Heck, my former roommate is an incredible soprano, and if I wasn’t in a performance, you can bet I was putting on my best dress and grabbing my seat as a spectator.
So it’s no surprise that ever since I first heard about Smash last summer, I’ve been anxiously waiting. Not that I had high hopes. This is NBC after all.
But I’m happy to say, I was pleasantly surprised. No show is perfect, but Smash does a pretty damn good job of making its way there.
Let’s just say this: Smash is well-written with a fantastic cast. Julia and Tom are instantly likable, and while I fully expected to see Karen as our naive, innocent leading lady (let’s be honest, she is), I was surprised to see that Ivy is equally likable. Sure, she may not be innocent, but she’s certainly fun and friendly. At the end of the day, you really don’t know who you want more in the leading role, and honestly, you’re rooting for each of them.
But let’s not forget the music. I’m sure ever other reviewer out there is comparing this brand-new series with Glee, and let’s face that head on. Smash has something to offer the audience that Glee certainly doesn’t: original songs. And these girls know how to make them impressive. Contrary to what you see on Glee, you’ve got two women who can sing their hearts out without the remixing undertones. They’re born performers who can sing and dance with full emotion (with eyes open, for that matter — take that Lea Michele). The way auditions are spliced with full spotlight-worthy stage performances feel natural, and you really feel like you’re getting an uninterrupted, unique performance in the show.
I’d be remiss I didn’t mention the negatives, though, and there are a few. Because of the type of show this is, of course, you have to realize that a show about Broadway is going to be a niche audience. There’s a certain need to make the show accessible to the everyman (or woman) who may not be as familiar with theater. To that end, there are weaknesses. Never would someone come to a Marilyn-inspired Broadway audition singing Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” No matter your voice, there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t get through two bars before you’re interrupted with a “thank you” and pointed toward the door. I’m also skeptical of the choice song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which was the episode’s opener. It’s a rather commonplace song — which, frankly, is why the writers probably chose to sing it for a TV audience — but commonplace songs don’t put you over the edge in Broadway auditions. It’s like singing “On My Own” or “Defying Gravity.” People may know it, but you can guess casting directors have heard it already.
That being said, it works out well for our “light” Karen, proving once again that her lack of experience is what’s holding her back.
Nonetheless, these moments are fun to watch and ultimately don’t break the show. If we have to sacrifice my own phile-dom to get some new viewers, by all means. I’m impressed by the series and balancing the theater world with the general TV audience attention spans is one of the biggest balancing acts the show will need to do all season. I suppose it deserves a little leniency.
Bravo, Smash. Standing ovation. I’m so pleased with the show, and I can’t wait for more. Whether it will pick up the audience it needs to keep going for multiple seasons, I can’t say. But it’s certainly gotten my attention.