Once upon a time, in another world called 2012, the post-Superbowl slot was taken by an hour-long musical drama on NBC about the making of a Broadway musical. Viewers first discovered Smash on February 6, 2012, and theatre fans were never again the same. The show that gave rise to audition songs, memes, and endless quotes even eight years later is still available to watch on NBC.com, and Playbill is leading a rewatch as Broadway stays dark for the next month. So, what exactly went down in the first episode?
"Marilyn Manson?" No, Julia's Son, this is not about a Marilyn Manson musical. This is a series about songwriters Tom Levitt and Julia Houston (two-time Tony winner Christian Borle and Debra Messing) ending their self-imposed sabbatical to write a bio musical about Marilyn Monroe. Producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston), whose My Fair Lady revival is trapped in escrow during her divorce, turns to the show to prove her solo producing bona fides after Tom's assistant Ellis leaks a video of longtime ensemblist Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) singing a spec song (sorry, his mother leaked it, because moms all know how to leak bootlegs). She wants erstwhile My Fair Lady director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) to direct; Tom and Julia are leery, but are ultimately won over by his staging of the baseball number. But Derek wants to be a starmaker, which means Ivy Lynn isn't his first choice. Maybe new girl on the block Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee) is the answer? The callbacks come down to both performers: Ivy in full Marilyn costume, and Karen as a more Norma Jean brunette. They both belt out "Let Me Be Your Star" and... cut to black. Who gets the role?
We didn't have long to wait before we heard a handful of the Marc Shaiman-Scott Wittman songs that would eventually become Bombshell favorites. In the pilot alone are "Never Give All Your Heart," "National Pastime," and "Let Me Be Your Star." Plus, we saw Karen Cartwright singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Beautiful" in auditions.
In addition to the core cast, the pilot also saw cameos from Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford (auditioning in full Marilyn drag), Maddie Corman (Accidentally Brave, Next Fall), and Dylan Baker and Becky Ann Baker making their first appearance as Karen's parents. Plus, "National Pastime" included dancers Curtis Holbrook and Alex Wong.
CLASSIC SMASH MOMENTS
Tom and Julia reuniting after time apart, and marveling at Tom's assistant Ellis creating a tea drawer... Ivy Lynn tearing at her Heaven on Earth wig backstage after losing out on another principal role... The fully staged "National Pastime" number from choreographer Joshua Bergasse, with those phallic baseball bats... Dev and Karen recreating Some Like It Hot before she goes to Derek's apartment and puts him in his place after some very cringey behavior on his part... Julia wearing three scarves in one hour, setting the stage for the rest of the season... Eileen being a Boss and putting Tom and Julia and Derek at ease individually... Karen and Ivy Lynn commuting to the audition in character and belting "Let Me Be Your Star."
And so who gets the role? The newbie or the Broadway stalwart? Longtime fans know we're in for a long, belty ride!