You’ve seen the posters. You recognize the lightbulb block lettering, traditionally associated with such obvious hits as Chicago and such obvious flops as Burlesque. Or maybe you saw the individual letters on sale at Therapy or other purposefully overdone interior design stores. Whatever your immediate association, NBC wants you to know SMASH IS COMING.
Sammie invited me to a screening of NBC’s new drama, soon to occupy the slot after The Voice on Monday nights. (February 6th! Mark your
marketing musical calendars!) We all know about my falling out with Glee, and I was never a follower of American Idol or The Voice or X Factor. But I’m still a musical theater fan, and nothing follows Chevy’s enchiladas better than more cheese, so there I was to see what the Hell Katharine McPhee’s been up to.
- I cannot get over how sculpted Katharine McPhee’s face is. It’s kind of alien. When I worked in social gaming, analyzing how to make a 3-D avatar’s head look like Katharine McPhee’s head, I had to stare at her mug every day. Study the arch of her brows. Wonder at her cheekbones. The curves of her lips. She’s almost textbook beautiful, mathematically gorgeous. Yet I don’t find her attractive. It’s weird.
- The show? It’s entertaining. It takes a musical path, so if you don’t like musical numbers, of course you will not like the show. Based on just the premiere episode alone, it doesn’t force-fit outbreaks of song and dance as much as Glee does. If anything, the way they work song and dance numbers into the script is more akin to Broadway scripting than anything that happens to McKinley High.
- The dialogue is sometimes really awful. This should be expected. It’s not all-out groan-worthy the way True Blood often is, but moments are lame enough that you know “This is not the ‘Smash’ hit the title promises it will be.”
- There is a British Indian in the show. It really excited me when, A) The marketing representative handing me a pamphlet handed me a made-up Playbill about Smash instead of a survey about Smash, and B) I saw that this gentleman, Raza Jaffrey, plays a character named Dev Sundaram (not “Tom Haverford” or “Jonathan”). Jaffrey is a key character in the script, it seems, starting off as McPhee’s boyfriend who works in the New York mayor’s office. I’m quite sure he could be the result of an NBC Universal diversity initiative. I totally think he might be the requisite character of color who is not Black, but still! It’s really exciting! The snarker in me expects him to bring some token Bollywood interpretation to the show, but the American Asian in me is largely just happy. It hurts not that I find him attractive, and his accent, too.
The team backing Smash is nothing to snub at: He with His Hands in Everything, Steven Spielberg! And Tony and Grammy-winning composer and co-lyricist Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman on board. Considering the years of TV and mainstream support Broadway has been getting (Glee, American Idiot, etc.), I can’t help but be particularly curious to see how this plays out. To see if young generations will continue to see the value in live theater. (Heck knows movies are getting about as expensive as a staged show anyway!)
As the Bay Area braces itself for local Glee alum Darren Criss’ performance in How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, I’m seeing more apparent connections between screen and stage being made in front young audiences who probably only had access to the former before. Who’s to say the new prescribed path for ultimate stardom isn’t a breakout screen role and legitimate time on stage? Or in Julianne Hough’s case, Proactiv commercials and then a movie based on a staged musical. Anyway, you get what I mean. The point is, the stage plays more of a role in mainstream entertainment these days, even if it is just an environmental reference. Smash may be another notch in its modern-day significance.
Looks like they film some of the show at the New 42nd Street Studios, where this little Mariah Carey carol was shot. And they made fun of Spider-man. Well done, Broadway consultants, well done.
Will I be watching the show? Probably, but probably on my own streaming schedule.