x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Smash offers a new hit, with fine tuning

Smash amps up its Broadway marquee with Jennifer Hudson - and gives its players a prickly taste of off-Broadway rivalry.

Katharine McPhee, left, and Megan Hilty on the set of Smash. AP / NBC, Will Hart
Katharine McPhee, left, and Megan Hilty on the set of Smash. AP / NBC, Will Hart

When the musical-within-a-soap-opera Smash wrapped its first season, there were so many cliffhangers that it could have been mistaken for a rock climbers' convention. Now the Broadway hissy fits are back with fresh energy, new faces and rival musicals to strike creative sparks for its sophomore season.

The fact that Smash is even back in the TV limelight marks a triumph for both the lovers and the haters of the polarising show. In the US, Smash opened strong with 11 million viewers but soon frittered away nearly half of them. The fans who love Smash should rightly thank those who "hate-watch" the showfor keeping viewership high enough to trigger NBC's renewal.

Critically, the show has had a rough ride, despite having Steven Spielberg as an executive producer.

"Smash was supposed to be the show that got Broadway right while taking the karaoke inclinations of American Idol and Glee and turning them into respectable adult drama," writes Mike Hale of The New York Times. "But Broadway is a vicious, thrilling, glamorous place, and Smash, beyond some outré moments, has been small, wan and polite, more Hallmark than Bob Fosse."

Withering criticism aside, Smash can easily be enjoyed for what it is: a rollicking, tasty slice of TV puff pastry that lets us vicariously experience the perks and pitfalls of rabid thespian ambition with the looks, bodies and talent we crave.

Just about all the characters found themselves burnt out both personally and professionally in last season's finale when Bombshell, the show's make-believe musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe, opened in Boston, hoping for enough critical juice to float it to Broadway.

The marriage of the lyricist Julia (Debra Messing) crashed onto the rocks after her affair with her old flame Michael (Will Chase). The tenacious producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) assumed control of Bombshell, but expect it to be yanked away from her again. Derek, the libidinous director (Jack Davenport) seemed to fall madly and sadly in love, yet again, with his leading lady. And the poor, heart-broken Ivy (Megan Hilty) lost the star role in Bombshell to her arch-rival Karen (Katharine McPhee), who triumphed in Boston.

"You'll always have kind of a roller-coaster ride with Karen and Ivy," says Hilty. "I anticipate a lot of moments where they don't quite get along but then the opposite will happen. I'm sure they'll come together, in a way, to be friends … for a minute."

Before she puts her life back together, "Ivy may be doing some harm to herself", hints Smash's executive producer Neil Meron. But he also assures that the new season will be anything but glum.

"Not only will we be watching the road to Broadway for Bombshell, a new musical [will be] introduced," he says, "a scrappy new off-Broadway musical that will catch fire and a lot of our team from Bombshell may be joining that. So there could be a rivalry to rival the real-life story at the Tony awards when Wicked and Avenue Q were up against each other."

This season also includes three new faces: the Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson as the Broadway superstar Veronica Moore; the real-life Broadway star Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) as Jimmy, who will launch a buzzy off-Broadway show called Hit List, and the rising star Andy Mientus, a TV first-timer who rocked in the off-Broadway musical version of Carrie, as the young writer Kyle.

And expect the returning stage rats Eileen and Julia and the composer Tom (Christian Borle) to be blindsided by both personal and professional obstacles as they battle to take Bombshell to Broadway.

Smash is broadcast at 10pm on Fridays on OSN First HD

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