Emmy Awardr winner Debra Messing (Will & Grace), Academy Awardr winner Anjelica Huston (Prizzi's Honor), Megan Hilty (Broadway's Wicked) and American Idol's Katharine McPhee star in the groundbreaking, critically acclaimed series Smash. Talented newcomer Karen Cartwright (McPhee) is up for the role of a lifetime in a new Broadway musical based on the iconic Marilyn Monroe. The only thing standing in her way is Ivy Lynn (Hilty), a seasoned theater veteran who is determined to land the part herself and will stop at nothing to realize her own dreams of fame. Also starring Tonyr Award winner Christian Borle (Broadway's Peter and the Starcatcher) and Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean).
The "show within a show" concept gets a full-throttle workout in Smash, released here with all 15 first-season episodes on four discs. The many trials and tribulations involved in mounting a Broadway production, in this case a musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe, are depicted in creator Theresa Rebeck's TV series. But there's an operatic element here, too--soap operatic, that is, as the behind-the-scenes tumult is designed to be a good deal juicier than what happens onstage. Not that the legendary Monroe ("There was something about her," says one character. "How much she wanted to love and be loved… reminds me of a saint") isn't a good subject. But the particulars of her story will be familiar to most viewers. Less recognizable will be the process--from conception to creation to casting, from securing financing to rehearsals to workshops to previews--that preoccupies Smash's characters from start to finish. Vying for the lead role are Karen Cartwright (American Idol's Katharine McPhee), an ingénue from Iowa (Smash is definitely not cliché-free), and Broadway veteran Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty); one would think that the rivalry's over once Ivy sleeps with arrogant Brit director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) and gets the gig, but one would be mistaken. Meanwhile, songwriter Julia Houston (Debra Messing) struggles with both her marriage and her love life, which are by no means the same; her writing partner, Tom Levitt (Christian Borle), in addition to his own relationship issues, has a sneaky, duplicitous assistant (Jaime Cepero) who may be the real villain of the piece; and producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) is in the midst of a bitter divorce. Many will find all of this entertainingly addictive. The songs (written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman), while hardly classics, are good, as are the big production numbers. And while some of the subplots are silly (when her voice falters, Ivy must decide between taking steroids or being replaced by Karen) and some seem superfluous (like Julia and her husband's attempt to adopt a Chinese baby), others ring true (Ivy's mother, a Broadway legend played by Bernadette Peters, could hardly be less supportive), and overall, the depiction of show biz as a maddening mess of passions, betrayals, back-biting, infighting, and (often illicit) sex is engaging and fun. In addition to Peters, guest stars include Nick Jonas and Uma Thurman, while among the bonus features are extended musical numbers, deleted scenes, and making-of featurettes. --Sam Graham