One of the criteria I like to apply to my present purchasing for family and friends is “is this something I would like to borrow in the future?”. For example, my sister, mother and I have very similar taste (and actually my Dad too, but to a lesser extent as his wishlist usually consists of very weighty biographies), and therefore we tend to do a certain amount of inter-family loans as far as books and DVDs are concerned.
[In case you think I’m too self-centred, other criteria I use include: “I love this, therefore my sister/mum/friend will probably love it too”; “they’ve mentioned wanting this in the past”; and “this is random…they’ll love it!”.]
This year, I bought my sister Miranda Hart’s live DVD with the express purpose of borrowing it at a later date (actually, that sounds a little too mercenary – I actually thought it would make for quality Christmas family viewing, had we got around to it while in Belfast). Last year, I spotted a TV series on her wishlist which sounded intriguing – something about a musical being staged on Broadway – and figured that giving it to her could only benefit me in the long run. Sure enough, once she had finally got around to watching it, it was then passed on to me with enthusiastic recommendation!
Smash is effectively Glee for grown ups. Now, I know that Glee is for grown ups too, but it is set in a High School, which gives something of an indication of its intended audience. Smash is set on Broadway, featuring the kind of people the students in Glee aspire to be – members of the
chorus ensemble; divas; directors; and composers/lyricists. The first season revolves around the writing a brand new musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, beginning with a workshop process, just like many a Broadway or West End show.
Those that know me and my penchant for musicals should begin to see why Smash was an instant hit with me. To be honest, I probably would have sped through its first 15 episodes regardless of its cast. The tunes are catchy [the soundtrack for season one is playing as I type this], the acting excellent, and they play the Glee trick of bringing in exceedingly appropriate guest stars. For goodness sake, Bernadette Peters plays the mother of one of the wannabe Marilyns!!
The icing on the cake is that the main cast is fabulous. I sat down to watch the first episode with no idea of who was in it, and practically yelled when I discovered that Debra Messing (aka Grace in Will & Grace) was a lead. The mean British director who appeared later that episode seemed familiar too, but it took a bit of Wikipedia-ing to discover why. Turns out Miles from This Life did good. So good, he was playing a Broadway director and looking like he had aged very well! [Incidentally, it turns out most of This Life is on YouTube. If you can handle the realisation of just how long ago 1996 was, I highly recommend the nostalgia trip!]
Most of them have a background in Broadway, so it’s real. As is my custom, I hit Wikipedia hard to discover some juicy factoids about the cast (well, initially to work out who the dishy Brit was), while avoiding plot spoilers. It turned out that the composer to Messing’s lyricist had originated the role of Emmett in Legally Blonde. Most of the ensemble had been on Broadway in some shape of form. If you watch the documentary in the DVD extras (yes, I am *that* person), you discover that the real-ness of Broadway depicted in the show was a motivating factor in them getting on board with the project. (The fact that Spielberg is Executive Director can’t have hurt either.)
Anyway, the point of this post is that I’d have never known about Smash, were it not for my sister’ wishlist. [It was on Sky, which I do not have.] I can’t bear the thought of other musical theatre nerds being without this gem, so felt the need to share the love. It’s not on the streaming services of choice in the UK, so you may need to go old school with DVDs, but it’s SO worth it.
[I actually wrote this post a month ago and left it sitting in drafts. Since then, series 2 has wound its way to me. Having resisted the temptation of opening it for a few weeks, last week it became the ideal remedy for a season of life that featured frustration; big freelance projects; and essay writing. A couple of episodes of Smash at the end of a long day is exactly what this soul needs!]