From the opening scene of the pilot episode of "Smash," creator Theresa Rebeck's new scripted musical drama series on NBC, you know how the show is going to be delivering its songs — with a great sense of passion, whimsy and dramatic surprise, and an emphasis on how songs flourish in the imagination of writers, performers and listeners. Like the film version of "Chicago" — which was executive-produced by two of the executive producers of "Smash," Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — the series about the making of a fictional Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe will show us what's going on inside the heads of its stage-struck characters.
|photo by Will Hart/NBC|
At the top of the pilot, "American Idol" veteran Katharine McPhee, as the 24-year-old aspiring actress Karen Cartwright, appears on a deep purple stage with starlight surrounding her as she sings a lushly orchestrated rendition of "Over the Rainbow." It's interrupted by a cell phone, and the scene suddenly snaps to a gritty rehearsal studio where Karen is singing for a joyless director who answers the call during Karen's audition. "Welcome to the theatre," as Margot Channing once said in "All About Eve" and its musical version Applause.
This new 21st-century look at modern musical theatre has two faces for Eve, and they both appear before the opening credits. That distracted director doesn't need to see more from Karen, and the actress collects her sheet music and storms into a hallway of waiting actors. Next up at bat for the part is Ivy Lynn (played by Wicked and 9 to 5 veteran Megan Hilty), a 10-year member of the chorus who is ready for her tipping point (or tapping point) and the next level — a principal role. Blonde and with dangerous curves, she's got all the confidence that Karen doesn't. Neither will get the role in whatever anonymous show they just went in for, but there is a greater rivalry in the wings for them.
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