One of the perks of writing about entertainment is sometimes getting to see movies and television programs before everyone else. So, I have now seen three episodes of season 2 of NBC’s Smash, the program that gives us a behind-the-scenes look at Broadway musicals.
As a New Yorker and former dancer and singer, I love Broadway musicals, so Smash is tailor-made for me. That said, I would hardly call the show flawless. The story lines remain soap opera-ish. Still, there’s much to look forward to in Smash’s sophomore season.
For one thing, Oscar-winner (and now extremely svelte) Jennifer Hudson joins her fellow American Idol reject, Katharine McPhee, and blows the roof off the place. They both seem to be getting sweet revenge on the people who didn’t vote for them to win on Idol.
Besides Hudson, Broadway star Jeremy Jordan (Joyful Noise) joins the cast as McPhee’s new love interest. Jordan most recently starred as the lead in the successful Broadway show, Newsies. The songs he has been given on Smash certainly show off his voice, and he gets to play a complicated character who is a composing wunderkind with a chip on his shoulder.
Later in the season, we can expect appearances by Debra Messing‘s Will & Grace costar, Sean Hayes, and the iconic Liza Minnelli. One of my favorite character actresses, Margo Martindale, shows up for a small role (read my interview with her), and Harvey Fierstein (who, incidentally, wrote the book for Newsies) appears in a cameo.
I’m also hoping for more of Leslie Odom, Jr. as the season continues. He plays Christian Borle‘s boyfriend on the show. I’ve seen Leslie on stage, and he’s phenomenal. (Christian, a Tony-award winner, plays the second half of the songwriting team with Debra Messing’s character).
Meanwhile, the intrigue continues between Angelica Huston‘s producer character and her conniving, estranged husband (played by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Michael Cristofer); between Debra Messing and her estranged husband (played by Broadway’s Brian d’Arcy James; I recently saw him in an Off-Broadway production of the musical, Giant); and between Bombshell director Derek Wills (played by the handsome Jack Davenport from Pirates of the Caribbean) and all of his estranged lovers.
Highlights of the episodes I saw include (1) every time that Hudson sings, (2) a bravura performance by Megan Hilty (Ivy) at an American Theatre Wing event, (3) a drunken dream sequence to the song, Would I Lie to You?, with director Derek and a group of women he has wronged, and (4) all of the new music written by the brilliant Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (the team who brought us Hairspray) and the exciting composer, Joe Iconis.
The show continues to alternate between pop cover songs and new music. Broadway baby that I am, I usually prefer the new songs, but I’m sure the younger audience likes to occasionally hear songs they know.
With more shows than just the Marilyn Monroe musical entering the storyline, we can expect more variety in the original songs. It appears that the writers will give us the inside scoop about nearly everything that can go wrong with a Broadway musical. (And trust me, a lot can go wrong. Did you hear about the ill-fated Rebecca?)
Whatever happens on the show, it’s the musical performances that will keep me tuning in more than anything else. If you enjoy that aspect of the show alone, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, I think one of the new songs by Shaiman and Wittman called “I Can’t Let Go” is destined to become a hit for Hudson.
The first two episodes will air back to back in a two-hour premiere on February 5, 2013. Tune in, and come back to comment. Let me know what you think.