Today, in honor of the release of the complete Season One of NBC's hit musical drama series SMASH on DVD, we are revisiting some of the most memorable and truly tremendous musical numbers from the show so far - all available on the four-disc box set, available now - as we anticipate the grand return of the show on February 5. Plus: a look at Season Two, too!
Sparkling, shimmering and shining like few other sequences in film, television or theatre today, the musical numbers on SMASH - particularly those culled from the musical-within-the-series, the Marilyn Monroe concept bio-show BOMBSHELL - achieve the heady highs and offer forth the indescribably exquisite joy that only the best songs done right can do (usually on a Broadway stage). The fact that each and every one of the songs on SMASH is original - from the Tony Award-winning pens of HAIRSPRAY and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, no less - makes the impressive and lingering impact that these songs leave on the viewer - whether for the first time or the hundredth time, now that we can review them again and again on DVD and Hulu - dually impacting and unforgettable. SMASH is a masterful musical achievement like few others in stage or screen history for their sheer participation and output in Season One alone.
From "Let Me Be Your Star" and "The National Pastime" in the pilot through to the glamorous and outrageous barn-burner "Let's Be Bad", the rollicking "Twentieth Century Fox Mambo" and the instant earworm charms of the duets "History Is Made At Night" and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith", without even making mention of BOMBSHELL character numbers such as the stirring Joe DiMaggio solo "On Lexington & 52nd St." and Darryl F. Zanuck's caustic patter in "Don't Say Yes Until I Finish Talking"; plus, the guest starring Uma Thurman-led Actors Studio beatnik curiosity "Dig Deep" and Norbert Leo Butz's HEAVEN ON EARTH gospel rave-up performance sequence - Season One seamlessly covered a wide swath of 40s, 50s and early-60s musical sounds, all with a contemporary, quick and biting awareness evident in the pert and smart lyrics from the endlessly gifted songwriting team responsible for the song stack. Oh, yeah, they wrote a smashing Bollywood number, too - "A Thousand And One Nights"!
Also, on the musical side of SMASH, besides all the BOMBSHELL material (and that one-off dilly-dallying with the other version of the show, that is), cover versions of Blondie's "Call Me" and Carrie Underwood's "Crazy Dreams" courtesy of Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty, respectively, scored major points, while Anjelica Huston's evocative rendering of the melancholy "September Song" was an emotional highlight of the season (accompanied by Marc Shaiman).
Lest we forget: SMASH is packed to the brim with top-tier talent, from the producers - Steven Spielberg, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron and more - to the creative talent involved - creator Theresa Rebeck, director Michael Mayer, choreographer Joshua Bergasse - to the company of actors that portray the colorful cast of characters on the show itself, SMASH Season One is overall a rare delight to experience - or experience again - with many highlights among the fifteen episodes, musical and dramatic.
Nonetheless, the true stars of the glittery SMASH universe are not the triple-threat leading ladies, nor the assortment of characters that populate the fictional Broadway universe of the series itself - played by Debra Messing, Christian Borle, Jack Davenport, Brian d'Arcy James and Anjelica Huston among them; as well as recurring guest stars such as Bernadette Peters and Nick Jonas in featured roles and many more - it is the songs. Yes, the songs are the stars of SMASH. Each one is its own special diadem making up a crown all-too befitting of one of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century - now given music worthy of just as much reverence. Furthermore, Season Two seems as if it will continue to deliver spectacular standouts if the just-released performance of Season Two guest star Jennifer Hudson giving voice to the contemporary Shaiman/Wittman R&B/pop original "I Can't Let Go" is any indication whatsoever (and, let me tell you that it undoubtedly is - season two is on fire).
The ingenuous inventiveness and astonishing adaptability of the musical material on SMASH is absolutely astounding and that aspect of the show is magnified whenever the leading ladies of the series give a tune their own special take - time and time again. Seemingly night and day, Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty each amply display the contrasting sides that make up the unmistakable and iconic allure of the silver screen icon Norma Jean in their own individually compelling ways and to experience each of them have their way with some of these big, big showstoppers and tear-jerking ballads is a sublime thrill, indeed - particularly as the songs themselves are nipped and tucked and repositioned and redesigned, as is wont to happen with songs in a rapidly developing new musical such as BOMBSHELL.
For example: hearing a snippet of Hilty's "Never Give All The Heart" demo recording session in the pilot, as it was penned just the night before - a touching, Yeats-inspired gem - eventually leads to McPhee taking it on in the show proper, full-out, many episodes later when BOMBSHELL is actually up on its feet, albeit in workshop form. There are many more examples like this. Such are the repeated joys now able to be reaped now that all of the songs are available together in one package. Additionally, the DVD set includes the full "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" musical sequence as well as many other deleted scenes, extended scenes and production featurettes with the cast and crew, so it is a total must-buy for any serious SMASH fan or Broadway baby. It is a true, red hot smash.
Cut, Print... Moving On
So, now, let's take a look at the crowning musical achievements of Season One of SMASH now that it is available on DVD and also get a glimpse or two of what we can expect from Season Two of the show when it returns to NBC on February 5 by choosing the absolute must-see episodes of the season that showcased the topmost showstoppers of them all, Pilot through BOMBSHELL's Boston debut as the show-within-the-show makes its journey to Broadway... hopefully.
Starting at the beginning, sample the sights and sounds of the series that brought Broadway to the small screen in a whole new way by viewing the sensational pilot episode of SMASH - whether for the first time or the fifty-second time! "Let Me Be Your Star" is pure magic.
The Cost Of Art
In the packed fourth episode of the series, guest stars Nick Jonas and Will Chase add some music and drama, while Hilty contributes a wow-worthy "I Never Met A Wolf Who Didn't Love To Howl". Bonus: McPhee's cover of Adele's "Rumour Has It".
As if playing before an audience for the first time wasn't stressful enough - an invited audience, nevertheless - guest star Bernadette Peters (singing a GYPSY anthem, to boot) only added to the major mark made by "The Workshop".
While not an essential episode of the season, "Publicity" gave us not one, but two of the musical highlights of the series to date - the dazzlingly epic "A Thousand And One Nights" fantasy production number and the heartbreaking ballad "Secondhand White Baby Grand". SMASH has all terrain covered, Broadway to Bombay!
Seeing BOMBSHELL in its out-of-town Boston bow is exciting enough, but the addition of Huston's sensitive "September Song" and the introduction of the title song of the series in the show-within-the-show itself makes "Previews" a hard-to-beat season-high episode. And: guest star Uma Thurman!
The final episode of Season One ends just as the pilot began - with some seriously stupendous, diva-worship-worthy singing. As Marilyn passionately emotes onstage, the image of the real Monroe blazes before us! A stunner. "Don't Forget About Me" is a true coup.
Now, take a look at Season Two of SMASH, premiering February 5 on NBC.
Lastly, as a special bonus, here is a full performance of Jennifer Hudson's "I Can't Let Go" from the third episode of Season Two. Having viewed the first few episodes of the season so far myself, I can tell you that S2 truly delivers! This is just a mere taste of the thrills to come! Enjoy... and stay tuned to BroadwayWorld for everything SMASH between now and then (and beyond)!
Looking back, what episode of SMASH Season One is your favorite of them all? What musical number can you not stop yourself from re-watching again and again? What cover songs bested the originals in your estimation? With so much rich musical meat in every episode of SMASH, between the DVD set now available of Season One and with Season Two starting up in just a few weeks, there is more than enough to satiate our ravenous appetites for more SMASH.