Anyone who loves New York and theater surely had a blast with Season One of “Smash.” In spite of some of its time-bending and asinine aspects, viewers will treasure the DVD set (NBC/Universal Studios Home Entertainment; four discs; widescreen; 650 minutes; SRP $45). The musical series, supposedly reality-based, celebrates the thrill and heartbreak of Broadway by following a motley group of dreamers and schemers and great talent, working in a matter of weeks, creating a bio musical on Marilyn Monroe. All 15 episodes, from the pilot (January 2012) and “The Callback” through “Previews” and “Bombshell,” are included.

The basic plot surrounds who ultimately wins “the role of a lifetime,” Monroe: talented singer Karen Cartwright or Broadway ensemble player and friend of the composer Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty).

It’s a bit of a Who’s on First for most of the season: first, it appears Ivy a shoe-in; then Karen; then Ivy, based on a mistake an actor should never make; then Karen; then Ivy. You get the picture. However, they’re not always the focus. You have flaring egos, blackmail, the perfect marriage headed for the rocks, a wife doing questionable things to get revenge on her cheating hubby, and a hit Broadway composer who, as hard as it may be to believe, has a difficult time finding a boyfriend.

Certainly there were high production values (most probably thanks to executive producer Steven Spielberg, who had the germ of the idea for the series), along with a lot of name-dropping – which you wonder had any meaning to anyone outside of the inner circle – and appearances by real theater folk (ditto).

There were winning performances and 99 percent of the original song score by Tony and Drama Desk-winning Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray) was listenable and often memorable.

The stars are Emmy winner Debra Messing, as lyricist Julia Houston in a challenging marriage – a role that fit a bit too tightly during the airing of Season One; Tony winner Christian Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher) as composer Tom Levitt; Oscar winner Anjelica Huston, often hard to take seriously because of her character Eileen Rand’s naivety in a world she knows to be cut-throat; Megan Hilty (9 to 5) as Ivy; “American Idol” 2006 runner-up Katharine McPhee as Karen; Jack Davenport (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) as the womanizing director channeling Robbins and Bennett; and two-time Tony nominee and Drama Desk winner (with another four nominations) Brian d’Arcy James as hubby Frank Houston.

Then you have Will Chase in the stage role of Joe DiMaggio; Jamie Cepero as a stop-at-nothing snake-in-the-grass; and in a role that needed much expanding, Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning playwright (The Shadow Box) turned actor Michael Cristofer as veteran producer Jerry Rand. In addition, there were guest stars Dylan Baker, Montego Glover, Nick Jonas, Bernadette Peters, Lewis J. Stadlen, Uma Thurman, and Tony Yazbeck. Plus you have many New York theatrical landmarks.

The Season One DVD special features include “A Dream Come True” – an in-depth look at “the amazing cast and discover why `Smash’ is truly a triple threat”; “Song & Dance” – taking you behind-the-scenes with composers Shaiman and Wittman, and choreographer Joshua Bergasse; extended musical numbers; deleted and extended scenes, including an unaired musical production number; gag reel; and UltraViolet download.

Season Two, which will begin airing on NBC on February 5, begins with lots of creative changes, including new directors. After the Boston try-out (which due to some of Ivy’s shenanigans, stars Karen), the musical, “Bombshell” seems one step closer to achieving its Broadway run. But, hey, wait, there’s a whole season ahead; so, don’t bank on that.

There’s a lesson quickly to be learned, since no one learned it in Season One: even a charmed show can’t avoid paying for sins of the past or escape the consequences of using what’s perceived to be dirty money.

Will Eileen get away with mixing business and pleasure with her pub paramour? Will Julia’s marriage to Frank survive her infidelity with an old flame (Swenson)? Will Ivy bounce back from shame and bedding her rival’s fiancé? Will Tom and Julia’s long-time partnership endure? Will new cast member Jeremy Jordan win over new fans for his acting ability? Will Michael Riedel win an Emmy nomination for his cameo appearances?

In addition, to Jordan, new cast members include Andy Mientus (Carrie revival) channeling Jonathan Larson and, with Jordan, writing a rock musical that might challenge “Bombshell.” Adding some spice is Krysta Rodriguez (The Addams Family) as Karen’s roomie. In a welcome addition, Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy-winning Jennifer Hudson, packing a wallop of a voice, in a multiple episode arc is introduced as a top-of-the-charts hit maker and Tony-winning diva appearing in an SRO show (who, in a touch of whose reality, can’t get a network to air her one-woman show).

Tony nominee and Emmy winner Sean Hayes will also recur as the star of a musical who becomes a thorn in Ivy’s side. Jesse L. Martin will appear as the artistic director of a non-profit Off Broadway theatre. Additionally, Bernadette Peters will return as Broadway legend Leigh Conroy, and prove to be another thorn in Ivy’s side (she’s Ivy’s full-of-backhanded-compliments mom).

Guest stars include Tony nominee Sheryl Lee Ralph (Dreamgirls); four-time Tony and Drama Desk winner and multiple nomineer Harvey Fierstein; and Golden Globe nominee Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray film; TV’s “Huge”).


Key Subjects: 
Smash, Megan Hilty, Debra Messing, Steven Spielberg, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman.
Ellis Nassour
January 2013