Tuesday, February 7, 2012

REVIEW: NBC's 'Smash' Will Leave You Breathless

Man it's been a long time coming: On Monday, February 6 at 10 p.m., NBC’s highly anticipated musical series Smash, which has been teased for more than six months, launched at last.

The stakes are high for NBC, which has been lodged in fourth place among the major TV networks for years: If there were ever a time to promote the hell out of a promising vehicle, here you go. In fact, a video of star Katharine McPhee singing a spine-tingling version of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" made the rounds on the webbie months ago, while iTunes offered a free download of the entire pilot episode here.

And so... Is Smash a smash? The show boasts a first-class cast, including McPhee, Debra Messing, Angelica Huston and Katharine McPhee. Behind the scenes are executive producers Steven Spielberg, Craig Zadan & Neil Meron (producers of Chicago and Hairspray), with original music from composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray).

The story surrounds the blood, sweat, and tears involved in staging a Broadway musical. McPhee is utterly dazzling as the young ingenue auditioning for her first major gig to play Marilyn Monroe, while standing in her way is the "voice of experience" Megan Hilty, a character you expect to hate, but end up rooting for equally.

There's plenty of conflict in the wings, as the show's director/choreographer and the co-composer have wicked history together—each gunning for the other girl to win the role.

Peripheral characters include McPhee's supportive boyfriend (Brit Raza Jaffrey), a cutie assistant to Messing’s co-writer (Jaime Cepero) and on the fringes, parents of the two hopefuls who don't take their Broadway ambitions seriously. The original musical numbers are first-rate, absolute Broadway quality, and choreographed with the fun & precision of a cinema experience. Glee this is not. Not even in the same ballpark (thankfully... I never was able to get into that one).

This is among few TV shows I've seen in years where I wasn't eyeing the clock. Commercials were thankfully limited for the pilot, but I tell you: The hour flew by, leaving me wanting more, more, more! I can't wait to see where Smash takes us... and I have a feeling it's going to score, given its rock solid writing, beautiful character development and a universal plot of youthful hope. *