Tag Archives: Smash

‘Bombshell’ Headed for Broadway

After a hugely popular, one-off benefit performance in 2015, plans to bring Bombshell – the fictitious Marilyn musical from NBC’s Smash – to Broadway for real are now taking shape, as Greg Braxton reports for the L.A. Times.

“Craig Zaden and Neil Meron, the award-winning producing team behind the Oscar-winning Chicago and NBC’s live versions of The Sound of Music and The Wiz, are joining forces with NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Green late for the project, with an opening date yet to be determined. Greenblatt has extensive Broadway experience, producing the musicals Something Rotten! and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.

Created by Theresa Rebeck, who also served as showrunner, Smash premiered in 2012 to critical praise. The Times’ Mary McNamara called it a ‘triumph.’ But after a strong start, the series ran into rough creative waters, including exaggerated side plots and strange song breaks. Ratings fell. When Smash returned for its second season, Rebeck and a number of characters were gone. But Smash still was canceled.

The appetite for the show has never died, Zaden said, and has found new life on Netflix. ‘It’s more popular now than when it was on the air.'”

2015: A Year in Marilyn Headlines

10888615_10152588248917584_8987576087019859357_nIn January, Marilyn was named as the ‘new face’ of Max Factor cosmetics. Also this month, Joe Franklin (Marilyn’s first biographer) and Anita Ekberg, a fellow blonde bombshell of the fifties, both passed away.

In February, New York Fashion Week included a Fall 2015 collection from Max Mara, inspired by Marilyn’s 1960s style. A hologram of multiple Marilyns appeared in the Oscars opening ceremony. Also this month, Richard Meryman – the last person to interview Marilyn – passed away.

adf8341a9d7c6e436611f9b166316971In March, Marilyn was featured in a vintage-inspired ad campaign for Coca Cola. In book news, the long-awaited first volume of Holding A Good Thought For Marilyn, a two-part biography by Stacy Eubank, was published.

eubankMarilyn Forever, an opera by Gavin Bryars, had its US premiere. And Marilyn: The Strength Behind the Legendary Monroe, showcasing the collection of Ted Stampfer, opened in Liechtenstein.

In April, a viral hoax news story, claiming that a CIA agent had made a deathbed confession to Marilyn’s murder, was debunked. Plans for a monument to Marilyn in South Korea were announced. And in book news, Fan Phenomena: Marilyn Monroe, edited by Marcelline Block, was published.

fan phenomIn May, Dr Cyril Wecht – one of the world’s most renowned forensic pathologists – gave an interview to Immortal Marilyn’s Marijane Gray, laying to rest some of the many myths about Marilyn’s death. Marilyn was the subject of two controversial TV shows: Autopsy – The Last Hours of Marilyn Monroe, a documentary; and The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, a mini-series based on J. Randy Taraborrelli’s biography, starring Kelli Garner.

bfi monroe_season_posterOn June 1 – Marilyn’s 89th birthday – the British Film Institute launched a month-long retrospective of Marilyn’s movies, and a nationwide reissue of The Misfits. Menswear designer Dries Van Noten used iconic images of Marilyn in his Spring 2016 collection. A benefit performance of Bombshell (the Marilyn-inspired musical subject of TV’s Smash) spurred plans for a full Broadway run. And Marilyn Monroe: Missing Moments, a summer-long exhibit, opened at the Hollywood Museum.

jpegOn June 29, Julien’s Auctions held a Hollywood Legends sale dedicated to Marilyn, and her floral dress from Something’s Got to Give sold for over $300,000. Sadly, it was also reported that the ‘Dougherty House’ in North Hollywood, where Marilyn lived from 1944-45, has been demolished – despite protests from local residents. And George Winslow, the former child actor who appeared in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, passed away.

hollywood-legends-catalogIn July, Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years, a new book by Michelle Morgan, was published. Limited Runs launched the Red Velvet Collection, a US touring exhibition featuring Tom Kelley’s famous nude calendar shots of Marilyn, as well as rare photos by Gene Lester. In Los Angeles, the Andrew Weiss Gallery launched their own exhibition, Marilyn: The Making of a Legend, and published a catalogue, 17 Years.

morgan before marilyn

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In August, the Marilyn Remembered fan club’s annual memorial service was held at Westwood Memorial Park, marking the 53rd anniversary of Marilyn’s death. It was reported that hip hop producer Timbaland would sample ‘Down Boy’, a ‘lost’ song recorded by Marilyn for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And the Daily Express published rare photos of a young Marilyn in Salinas.

In September, a large number of rare candid shots of Marilyn were auctioned by Profiles in History. A new exhibition, Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn, opened in New York. And Norman Farberow, the psychologist who contributed to the first official report on Marilyn’s death in 1962 , passed away.

wills marilyn in the flashIn October, Marilyn – in the Flash, David Wills’ stunning sequel to MM: Metamorphosis, was published. Members of Everlasting Star discovered rare photos of an early public appearance by Marilyn at the Hollywood Legion Stadium in 1947. October also marked Arthur Miller’s centenary, and the death of movie legend Maureen O’Hara.

In November, Marilyn’s blue gabardine suit from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was sold at Bonham’s for $425,000. Congressman Tony Cardenas introduced a bill to rename a Van Nuys post office after Marilyn. Cartier unveiled a new ad, featuring a diamond-themed homage to Marilyn. And the Writers’ Guild of America voted Some Like it Hot as the second funniest screenplay of all time.

And finally … in December, Marilyn-related items from the collection of Dame Joan Collins were sold at Julien’s Auctions, and Ferragamo launched a capsule collection featuring a Marilyn-inspired shoe. Over in Toronto, the TIFF Cinematheque launched a season of movies starring Marilyn and her greatest Hollywood rival, Elizabeth Taylor.

‘Is Marilyn Meant for the Stage?’

'Marilyn: An American Fable' (1983)
Alyson Reed in ‘Marilyn: An American Fable’ (1983)

I’ve said before that there are so many plays about Marilyn being produced lately that it’s hard to keep track of them all – and frankly, most of them are best forgotten. Marilyn: Forever Blonde, the long-running, one-woman show starring Sunny Thompson, has bucked the trend and become a firm fan favourite. And back in 1983, British actress Stephanie Lawrence gained critical acclaim for her role in Marilyn! The Musical, although the show was panned.

So is Marilyn’s life the stuff that great plays are made of? ‘I think the best way to present Marilyn Monroe’s life is on the stage rather than in a movie,’ says MM biographer Carl Rollyson. ‘Why? Because in this case the right actress can project an image of Marilyn Monroe that is not dependent on camera closeups which keep reminding us the actress is not Marilyn Monroe. In the theatre so much can be done when the audience is not right smack up against the actors.’

As the makers of TV’s Smash try to bring their Marilyn-inspired musical, Bombshell, to Broadway, author Mark Robinson looks back at another ill-fated 1983 production, Marilyn: An American Fable, in an article for Playbill.

“It was never a bad idea to tell Monroe’s story through the conventions of musical theatre. It simply needed to be done in a way that served to honor the icon and the human being behind it. Bombshell, or at least the TV show that was the genesis of its creation, is already a hit and continues to be a subject of intrigue for those who want to see how a mythical fairytale about the creation of a Broadway musical concludes. It’s the inevitable payoff for two season’s worth of devoted viewership. With a strong book, the right casting and a production that delivers all the splash and flash worthy of Marilyn Monroe, all of the other ingredients are in place for a quality musical. This is not Marilyn: An American Fable, where very few things came together to transport us into this Hollywood legend’s life. All signs point to a ‘happy ever after’ for Bombshell.”

‘Bombshell’ Set For Broadway Run

547659_10150877178199121_519879120_9621691_287884110_nAfter a wildly popular benefit performance, Bombshell – the Marilyn-inspired musical featured in TV’s Smash – is heading for Broadway, Variety reports.

“Still, a final product is likely a long ways off, given that the musical bio of Marilyn Monroe currently has lots of catchy songs — courtesy of Hairspray songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who penned the tunes for the TV series — but no book with which to string them together.

Whether Shaiman and Wittman, whose Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is targeting Broadway next season, will write new songs for the stage version isn’t yet clear, although it seems likely.

Although the original cast of the TV series — including recent Tony winner Christian Borle as well as Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty alternating in the role of Marilyn — appeared in the concert version earlier this month, none of them are attached to the brewing stage production.”

Marilyn’s ‘Bombshell’ Hits Broadway

playbillA much-heralded, one-off benefit performance of Bombshell (the Marilyn-inspired ‘show within a show’ from TV’s now-defunct Smash) was staged at New York’s Minskoff Theatre on June 8, reports Variety.

“The one-night-only event at the Broadway’s Minskoff Theater (home to The Lion King) was presented as a fundraiser benefitting the Actors Fund. Looking to defer costs of the event, the Actors Fund raised more than $300,000 on Kickstarter from Smash fans panting to make Bombshell happen — and the goal had only been $50,000. ‘This is the largest theater Kickstarter in history,’ noted Christian Borle, a cast member of the TV show (and one of the winners at the Tony Awards the previous night).

‘Maybe if NBC had used Kickstarter instead of sponsors, we’d still be on the air right now,’ cracked Debra Messing, Borle’s costar on the show.

Borle and Messing played the composer and book-writer/lyricist, respectively, of the fictional Marilyn Monroe bio-musical Bombshell. ‘You are about to hear the score for Bombshell that we wrote,’ she joked, referring to herself and Borle. ‘I’m still working on the book.’

Actually, the Hairspray duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman penned the songs, and there never really was a book written for the show-within-the-show. So the concert strung together the pre-existing tunes with biographical texts written by Marilyn and her friends and lovers, like Lee Strasberg and Arthur Miller.

It was all there, from the signature song ‘Let Me Be Your Star’ to a ‘Big Finish’ encore, with Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee trading off in the role of Marilyn. Jeremy Jordan brought down the house with ‘Cut, Print… Moving On,’ and the suggestive choreography in ‘The National Pastime’ got a lot more risqué than broadcast television would ever allow. Brian d’Arcy James, Leslie Odom Jr., Ann Harada and Wesley Taylor also showed up to sing a song or two…

The full-length evening, which included several of Josh Bergasse’s fully choreographed dance sequences, closed with Shaiman and Wittman arriving onstage to take the mic. ‘What you saw tonight was the best part of Smash for us,’ Wittman said. ‘It was being in the room with all of these incredible people.'”

In a review for The New Yorker, Michael Schulman argues that despite lacking ‘a book’, Bombshell was the true highlight of Smash:

“But what about that Marilyn Monroe musical? What we saw of it, chopped up and sprinkled across the two TV seasons, was always the strongest part of the series—actually, stronger than the series, as if some superior, nonexistent work of art were struggling to break free from a fatally flawed one…When Smash premiered—before its narrative dysfunctions became apparent—it was suggested that some day, once the show caught on, the fake musical could become a real one, a cross-medium spin-off like none the world had ever seen.

I should back up: the first delightful surprise of the evening was that Bombshell has an overture, which was played by a sumptuous onstage orchestra. Then it was on to the song that has been stuck in my head since the pilot, ‘Let Me Be Your Star,’ sung by Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee. In Smash land, they were the duelling divas Ivy and Karen, who fought over the role of Marilyn Monroe like matinee ladies squabbling over an armrest.

Finally, we could hear Shaiman and Wittman’s Bombshell without the surrounding silliness of Smash. As on the show, Hilty and McPhee seemed to echo Monroe’s split personality, with Hilty as brassy, sexy Marilyn and McPhee as whispery, semi-catatonic Marilyn. Hilty was especially strong on ‘They Just Keep Moving the Line,’ a bluesy ‘Maybe This Time’-esque anthem, which could just as well become a cabaret standard. Shaiman and Wittman’s lyrical wit shone through in ‘Second Hand White Baby Grand,’ a ballad of neglect about Monroe’s childhood piano. (Fun fact: it now belongs to Mariah Carey.) And the wordplay of ‘The National Pastime‘ (‘a baseball diamond is a girl’s best friend’) made as good a case as any for Bombshell as a real, live musical. In between, there were cameos from Smash supporting players…

So why isn’t Bombshell a real show? After the event, Wittman pointed out the obvious: it doesn’t have a book…To make up for the lack of connective scenes, the actors read excerpts of Monroe in her own words, bringing us glimmers of her isolation and thwarted attempts to love and be loved. Over the course of the evening, Marilyn became a kind of metaphor for Smash itself—eager to please the wrong people, breakable under pressure, and, in the end, just too beautiful to live.”

‘Smash’ Concert Breaks Kickstarter Record

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A one-off benefit performance of the Bombshell musical, by the cast of TV’s Smash – set for June 8 at New York’s Minskoff Theatre – has become the most successful theatre campaign to date on crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter, raising over $300,000 for the Actors Fund, with a large number of donations coming from fans of the axed TV show, reports Vulture.com.

“It’s Smash‘s music that seems to be the selling point — even fans acknowledge the plot’s shortcomings. ‘The show itself maybe faltered a bit with the story,’ [Mike] Taylor said, ‘but the music and performances were solid. Jennifer Hudson sang a song from Smash at the Oscars this year — I would have never expected that. And why did it happen? Because it’s great music.’  Amy Poe, a 31-year-old public-school-theater teacher in the Washington, D.C., area, was an early donor who heard about the concert on Twitter. ‘Glee to my kids was like an after-school special; they’re like, That doesn’t really happen in high school. But showing the slow progression of theater like Smash did, that’s real to them.’

Though rumors circulated during Smash’s run that Bombshell could potentially make a Broadway transfer, that was never the plan. The songs for Bombshell had to serve both the needs of the musical within the show and what was going on in the characters’ lives. As such, Bombshell never had a real book, and Shaiman and Wittman [songwriters] still don’t consider it viable as a stand-alone musical.

The Broadway benefit will include most of the Bombshell songs — Shaiman notes they will likely axe three songs to cut down on length. Scott Wittman and Josh Bergasse — who choreographed Smash — are directing the concert; [Will] Chase, [Megan] Hilty, Katharine McPhee, Christian Borle, and Debra Messing are all confirmed to appear. ‘A lot of the talented people who worked on Smash had roles that didn’t require any singing, but we’re going to try to involve them,’ Shaiman says. ‘There might end up being a Marilyn song sung by men. Also to give Megan and Kat a chance to catch their breaths. We don’t want either of them to die. Or for their throats to start bleeding.'”

Bombshell: The Show Must Go On

Fans of TV’s nixed Smash may be interested to hear that Bombshell, the Marilyn-inspired musical at the heart of the show, may be getting a new lease of life.

“A subject of the series was a musical called Bombshell, about the life of Marilyn Monroe, and composer Marc Shaiman told The Hollywood Reporter that at least one charity has expressed interest in creating a concert based on the songs. ‘A concert could feature the cast and additional performers from Broadway. That would be a wonderful way for the show to live on,’ he said.”

Why Did ‘Smash’ Crash?

Over at the New York Times, Charles Isherwood explores why, after two seasons, Smash lost its way with the public.

“Why tempt the showbiz gods by calling your show Smash in the first place? A $10 fortune teller on St. Mark’s Place might have steered the producers away from that choice. Perhaps it was hubris of Hollywood players to whom people rarely say no.

Also in the fate-tempting department was the decision to place at the center of the show a musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. Those who follow Broadway know that an actual musical about Monroe ranks among the most notorious flops of the 1980s, which was a vintage decade for notorious flops. The real Marilyn: An American Fable churned through all sorts of personnel changes and turmoil before opening at the Minskoff and closing after only 17 performances, racking up a total of zero Tony nominations.

Sadly, watching most of the numbers from Bombshell, as the Marilyn musical in Smash was called — and once again, really, ‘bomb’? – I had the uneasy sense that I was discovering just how impossible it must have been to make a non-cheesy musical about such a complicated and celebrated figure. Although Mr. Shaiman and Mr. Wittman are skillful and smart songwriters, their ingenuity was soundly defeated by the inability to avoid all the obvious clichés of the well-worn Marilyn storyline.

Enter Hit List, the downtown musical that was brought into the plot line this season to provide a rival for Bombshell. Exit more credibility. This supposedly edgy show, hatched at a theater modeled on New York Theater Workshop, where Rent began (exterior shots were filmed there), was a flashy pop spectacle that tried with a panting desperation to ride the exotic coattails of Lady Gaga, and of course felt every bit as authentic as a teenager vamping before the mirror.

Tellingly, the funniest Smash joke didn’t happen on the show itself, but on NBC’s late, great 30 Rock. During the finale of that show’s penultimate season, after the travails of Smash had already become fodder in industry circles, Tina Fey’s character Liz gave proof of her unshakeable loyalty by exclaiming to her boyfriend, ‘Hey, I don’t bail, I’m still watching Smash!'”

Goodbye to ‘Smash’

After a troubled second season, Smash will not be renewed by NBC, it has been confirmed. The final episode will air on May 26. Katharine McPhee told the Hollywood Reporter:

“Sure, I wish that it could have five more seasons, but we had two great seasons and all I can say is I loved every moment of it. I loved getting to the set, I loved the people, I loved my crew. We did amazing things on the show in two years.

With this business, you can never predict what people are going to like or love or hate. All I know is that when the show started and people were so excited about the pilot, I was excited to finally be a part of something that could showcase me. Everyone has perceptions about what you’re capable of and what you can do and this show was a huge gift.”