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Intrigued by Marilyn Monroe?
Getting a bit fed up with the teen antics of glee?
If you answered yes to any of the above them I'm pretty sure that you're going to like Smash, a tv series that revolves around the creation of a new Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe
The story begins where all stories begin, with the writers. Julia Houston and Tom Levitt, a well-known Broadway writing duo that have had some success with their previous stage offerings are contemplating the subject of their next musical offering. They return to an idea they (and many others) have had previously, Marilyn Monroe the musical. Brainstorming leads to creation of an amazing song called 'Never give all the heart', a witty but heart-breaking number that questions Marilyn's relationship with men. From this point the musical is born, step in two potential and amazing (in very different ways) Marilyn's, a sexy but arrogant director, a hilarious drink throwing producer and a number of scheming 'evil' people and there you have it.
The musical develops with the showing, giving great insight into the development of the musical. Each show has a number of 'Marilyn' songs, written in reality by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, as well as a number of covers. Some artistic licence is given in order to give full staging to the Marilyn numbers, cutting from rehearsals to sequences where the scene is fully staged. The 15 episodes of season 1 take us from the development and first auditions to the show's previews, with sub plots of the lives of all of those involved with creating the show.
Julia Houston - Debra Messing, best known for Will and Grace fame, plays the female half of the Houston and Levitt writing duo. Currently married with a son but has a few relationship ghosts in the closet.
Tom Levitt - The other half, an amazing composer who is close friends with one of the potential Marilyn's. He is portrayed by Christian Borle, a broadway veteran himself.
Derek Wills - Played by the very aesthetically pleasing Jack Davenport, from This Life and the Pirate of the Caribean films. Derek is the dark and brooding director who like to get up close and 'personal' with his stars.
Karen Cartwright - Potential Marilyn number one. A relative unknown, raw talent, girl next door type who has moved to New York to make it big. Karen is played by Katharine McPhee, an unknown to me but gained quite a bit of fame in the US when she game second in American Idol (The fifth series I think). She has the most amazing voice but is more of an understated raw Marilyn, before the transformation.
Ivy Lynn - A blonde bombshell with an amazing voice, a typical choice to play Miss Monroe, and thus Marilyn option number two. Ivy is portrayed by award winning broadway star Megan Hilty.
Eileen Rand - The crazily unique producer of the show who is currently going through a divorce to her husband Jerry 9The cause of many hilarious moments). Academy award winning Anjelica Huston (Prizzi's Honor, The Witches, The Addams Family) plays this role to perfection.
The support cast is also really great, there are a number of great singers and dancers. There is also a number of guest appearances throughout the show including one by a major star for quite a few episodes (I won't spoil it by revealing who but I had no idea she could sing). Watch out for 'The Movie Star' (Episode 11)
Where to start, we are given 17 Marilyn numbers in series one which make up the musical, later named Bombshell. Each number would stand against any that are currently on the stage and could have come from a real musical (I would actually pay to see bombshell on stage if they did it in real life). 'Let me be your star', 'Don't Forget Me' and 'Never give all the heart' are show stopping ballads but there are also a number of other great songs that are witty and intelligent. Most numbers are sang by the equally great Hilty and Mphee but Christian Borle is also amazing in 'Don't Say Yes Until I Finish Talking'.
As well as the Marilyn numbers there are also covers throughout the show, but these tend to be more alternative music rather than Glee type cheesy pop (I like cheesy pop but Smash is a bit more grown up). Katharine McPhee does a version of Snow Patrol's 'Run' that is serious competition for the Leona Lewis version and watch out for 'A Thousand and One Nights' in episode 12.
The music of Bombshell is available to download and was released on CD as well as a release of some other songs from the show. Sadly it looks as if the show will not be renewed for a third season but season two ended with resolve to account for this so it is not one of those annoying cliff-hanger situations. Season 2 has not been released on DVD yet.
Runtime: 670 minutes
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.