Midseason Preview: The Many Faces of NBC’s ‘Smash’

Smash on NBCOne of the most hotly anticipate shows this winter is NBC’s musical romp, Smash. The series boasts vets from all facets of the industry – small screen sirens, Broadway startets and vets, and big screen mavens all join together to round out a talented cast. But from the looks of the pilot episode – and the poster (left) many of our players are looking at almost equal billing and equal screen time. It takes a village to raise a Broadway show, and this village is raising a show about one of Hollywood’s biggest icons, Marilyn Monroe, so they’ve assembled quite the team. So who are we dealing with here? We’ve got a little breakdown of the six main cast members, and indispensible agents in the creation of a full-scale Broadway production, for NBC’s biggest midseason player.

The Sweet, Struggling Newbie

Karen Cartwright (Katherine McPhee)

Ambiguously Midwestern background: check. Sweet demeanor thrown in stark contrast against the cutthroat theater realm: check. Karen is the singer we all love to root for. The one who’s rife with talent that we, the audience, see so clearly while those dummy casting directors on TV can’t seem to grasp it. She’s a newbie who can’t manage to even break in to dance in a chorus line, but then, she has her moment. She shines and the whole world stops to listen. It’s like a Cinderella story except her crowning moment doesn’t come with a prince, but instead with rehearsals, leotards and even steeper competition.

The Desperate Diva

Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty)

As a contrast to McPhee’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Karen, Ivy has been at this for years. And she’s been in show after show, but only as a chorus girl. She’s sick and tired of being relegated to the background; she’s got the chops, but she can’t manage to squeeze her way into the spotlight. She’s a “shoe-in” for Marilyn – she’s got the curves, the sass, and she happens to be besties with one half of the song-writing duo behind the whole thing. And we’d almost root for her too if she wasn’t going up against our heroine, Karen.

The Talented Working Mom

Julia Houston (Debra Messing)

Messing takes on another classic New York profession (on Will & Grace, she was a highly stylized interior designer): a lauded lyricist whose many works have graced the Great White Way. There’s just this other small factor of her family life and a husband who thinks she works too much. They’re looking to adopt, but her song-writing genius cannot be stopped. She’s a much more sane character than our beloved Grace Adler, but Messing brings a bit of that manic charm to the busier-than-a-bumble-bee lyrical genius.

The Stubborn Good Guy

Tom Levitt (Christian Borle)

He’s the yin to Julia’s yang, the other half of her song-writing duo. He lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps theater and once the idea of a Marilyn musical is out in the open, there’s no stopping him. Plus, he’s desperate to help out his dear friend, Ivy Lynn, who he sees as the embodiment of the beloved screen siren. He is very much the good guy, but his stubborness can tend to get in the way – and on occasion, make him look like the cantankerous one.

The Brilliant Bad Boy

Derek Wills (Jack Davenport)

He’s your typical can’t-live-with-him-can’t-live-without-him character – and the object of good guy Tom’s ardent ire. Derek Wills is known across the industry for his brilliant choreography and direction, so naturally the producer wants him on the Marilyn job. And from what we’ve seen thus far, Tom’s going to have to get over his issues because Wills is the tops. He’s also attractive, alluring and British – the trifecta. He seems to be a bid of a baddie, but one we’re going to love watching.

The Queen Bee Broadway Vet

Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston)

She’s the final piece of the musical puzzle: the money. A legendary Broadway producer, Eileen can spot a hit from a mile away and she sees dollar signs with the Marilyn musical. She’s determined to get the best team signed on for the project, even if that means she has to play referee while Derek and Tom duke it out. Of course, added to all this infighting even in the Marilyn production’s infancy, she’s got her own war at home. We’re sure this won’t complicate things…at all.

Smash premieres on NBC, Monday, Feb. 6. For a sneak peek, you can watch the entire pilot episode on NBC.com.