Writers: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
Reviewer: Lucy Thackray
If you’re a musicals fan and haven’t come across Smash season one, get on it now – this addictive TV show is essentially a grown-up Glee which deals with the backstage dramas behind creating a hit Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. If you have – and you have already, perhaps, bought the ‘highlights’ soundtrack – this new compilation of songs from this show within a show, Bombshell, could be just what your CD collection needs. It is only for the truly geeky though – if you’re someone who listened to the highlights album and thought ‘Where are all the great songs from the show?’, I’m talking to you. Forget Megan Hilty singing Jessie J, here we have the heartbreaking Second Hand White Baby Grand and stirring Never Give All the Heart (the first demo Ivy records at the beginning of season one). We also get to hear her rival Karen (Katharine McPhee) on the latter, and both on an extended intro to the series’ anthem, Let Me Be Your Star. However, you may wonder how each singer was paired with ‘their’ tracks (Hilty’s I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Love to Howl is included over McPhee’s arguably superior version, which was featured in the season finale). The musical climax to that final episode, the show’s final number Don’t Forget Me, is a thrilling conclusion to the album.
Both potential Marilyns are given lots of airtime – highlights from the series include McPhee’s 20th Century Fox Mambo and Hilty’s Let’s Be Bad – and fans will smile at the memory of Christian Borle’s writer Tom standing in on Don’t Say Yes Until I’ve Finished Talking. Will Chase as Joe DiMaggio inserts some macho charm on the lullaby-esque Mr and Mrs Smith and anguished Lexington and 52nd Street. Uma Thurman (who briefly appeared as the vocally-challenged movie star Rebecca Duvall) is mercifully excluded, though we get alternate versions of her ‘moments’ such as Dig Deep. Also included are a few season two numbers, plus an interview with writers Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, which gives a little context for those seemingly few of us who haven’t been frantically streaming the upcoming series online. These tracks are slightly baffling but give a nice taster of what’s to come – with more of Marilyn’s childhood in the frame, more success for Karen and more trials for poor Ivy. The one surprising thing this album does, however, is show up how similar the style of Wittman and Shaiman’s songs are without the surrounding drama to separate them. These are big, lush, brassy showtunes, not terribly subtle – though with some terrific lyrics – and run together on a ‘cast album’, with doubled up versions of some, they do feel a bit repetitive. Would Bombshell really work on Broadway? The jury is out. There is also some odd content on the album – non-cast member Jane Krakowski singing slinky number Smash!, for one (it’s hard not to just hear Jenna from 30 Rock having a go). But if you were the viewer searching for the unreleased tracks on YouTube (and now, perhaps, trawling the net for those fantastic season two teasers) you won’t be disappointed by this compilation. Numbers to watch for next season include Megan Hilty’s They Just Keep Moving the Line and Katharine McPhee’s Public Relations.
Produced by NBC. Available from amazon.co.uk.