Gypsy, Glee Opened The Door For NBC’s Marc Shaiman Musical Series, Smash

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NBC wants a ‘Smash’
January 09, 2012

Easily the most anticipated midseason series on a broadcast network, NBC’s “Smash” (10 p.m. Feb. 6) takes viewers behind the scenes of the making of a Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe.

Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”) and Pittsburgh native Christian Borle (Broadway’s “Legally Blonde”) play the proposed musical’s writer and composer. Katharine McPhee (“American Idol”) and 2004 Carnegie Mellon University grad Megan Hilty (Broadway’s “9 to 5”) play the two women up for the lead role playing Marilyn.

Creator/executive producer Theresa Rebeck (“NYPD Blue”) said the 15-episode first season of “Smash” will follow the making of the musical until it opens as a try-out on the road. Should the series get renewed, the second season will be about the journey of “Marilyn” to Broadway.

For musical theater fans, “Smash” should be a smash. Real-life Broadway composer Marc Shaiman and co-lyricist Scott Wittman (“Hairspray”) are creating all the music for the show and, in success, the TV show could lead to a real-life Broadway “Marilyn” musical.

But that possibility is a long way off. First, “Smash” has to be a hit at a time when NBC desperately needs a successful series.

“What NBC wants out of us is great storytelling,” Ms. Rebeck said. “Our task is to make great television, and the rest of the story is up to other forces.”

Executive producer Craig Zadan, who for a time revived movie musicals on TV with Bette Midler’s “Gypsy” for CBS in 1993, credited Fox’s Ryan Murphy-produced “Glee” for paving the way for “Smash.”

“He broke a great barrier,” Mr. Zadan said. “He allowed the network to believe there was room for drama, comedy and music in one show week after week. I don’t think any of us feel [this] show is like ‘Glee,’ but we feel grateful to ‘Glee’ for opening the door.”

Mr. Borle said he’s happy that the cast of “Smash” has had a chance to film most of the first-season episodes before the show got on the air.

“We’ve gotten done so much work we’re proud of,” he said. “At least we as creators have done something we’re happy with, whatever the fates bring for NBC and everybody else.”

Viewers eager to see “Smash” take note: The pilot episode will be available to Comcast customers via on demand and on, iTunes and Xbox next Monday. The pilot will be available via and on Jan. 23.

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