NBC's musical drama Smash, about the behind-the scenes efforts to stage a lavish Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe, achieves a small miracle. It's that rare series with actually lives up to the accompanying fanfare and hype. Part of the reason is surely the prestigious cast (Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing, Broadway star Christian Borle, Wicked's Megan Hilty, and American Idol's Katharine McPhee) and its pedigreed production team (among them are producer Steven Spielberg, Hairspray songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, renowned writer-producer Theresa Rebeck, and Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer). Also instrumental to the authenticity of Smash is the multi award-winning team of Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, who've produced the Oscar-winning Chicago, Hairspray, and the current hit Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Meron and Zadan tell The Advocate why the backstage drama of creating a
musical about Monroe has mass appeal and why big stars like
Anjelica Huston, Uma Thurman, Bernadette Peters, and Nick Jonas were eager to appear in it.
The Advocate: Smash is certain to be a big hit with people who love musical theater, but how do you anticipate it will play to people outside of urban areas?
Neil Meron: Our point of view is that we do think in all the areas outside of New York there’s experience in musical theater because of the tours of Cats, Les Miz, and Phantom during the past 10-15 years. Theater has really infiltrated America like never before, so we consider theater popular and right up there with going to the movies and watching television as far as being accessible. We believe that audiences are ready for a show about theater because they’ve been nurtured by all the tours in their hometowns.
That makes sense. Did you take any steps to make the show accessible to as broad an audience as possible?
Craig Zadan: We were very cautious to make sure each script has universal characters so it’s not a show for a niche audience like Entourage. For instance, in the pilot you have Anjelica Huston’s character going through a divorce, Debra Messing and her husband are adopting a child, Katharine McPhee’s family is visiting from the Midwest and expressing their fear about what she’s going to do and how the likelihood of her success is minimal. We think the show is actually universal. If you look at the show like A Chorus Line — it’s about a bunch of dancers but it played all over the world and was an international hit because everyone related to the characters.
Although they're very different, I imagine the success of Glee made it easier to get Smash on the air.
Meron: One hundred percent. I think Glee opened the door for us to come in and be our own show and exist in the same universe as Glee but be different.
February 04 2012 11:21 AM