SMASH: Creator Theresa Rebeck Talks About Her New Show - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

SMASH: Creator Theresa Rebeck Talks About Her New Show

February 13, 2012 by  

Have you guys fallen in love with SMASH yet?

There’s a brand new episode of the musical drama tonight and it is good. Not only are there some fantastic singing numbers, but there is some significant progress on the quest for the role of Marilyn.

I talked with SMASH creator Theresa Rebeck about her new series, the challenges of doing a musical drama, and much more…

I know you have many years of Broadway experience, but what exactly led to the creation of SMASH?
Theresa Rebeck: A life in the theater! There was one point where [fellow executive producer] Scott Wittman actually said to me, when people ask him how long it takes to write a song, he says a lifetime or a week. Sometimes people are amazed I can write these episodes so fast, but it’s kind of my whole life. It’s not that stunning — it’s what I’ve been living for the past 20 years.

It’s a bit surprising that it’s taken so long for a show to dive so deeply into the Broadway world.
TR: And it’s something that has made people nervous over time. But the power system always gets nervous over things that haven’t been tried before, so it took a while to get this out there. People said before WEST WING, oh, you could never do a political show. And then THE WEST WING came along and did such an amazing job.

Does GLEE ever enter the conversation in your writers room?
TR: We’re thankful to GLEE for proving so definitively that a musical absolutely works on television, because for a lot of years, people tried it — they didn’t try it all that much, but there have been attempts over the years — and no one had figured out how to do it. There was something about the way GLEE did it so successfully and muscularly, that people understood, yes, it can be successful. So what we’re doing is combining a different kind of adult drama with a musical element. We’re not really in relation to GLEE, and when people ask me the precursor to this show, I think more MAD MEN or WEST WING or even NYPD BLUE — it’s a workplace drama, with really interesting, dynamic people with good stories. A good soap element, with some killer songs, is what it is.

You guys also have some amazing original songs going for you, too.
TR: Yeah, because [Marc] Shaiman and Wittman really are musical geniuses of the American musical theater and we really are building a musical. Sometimes I say it’s like UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS, except the mansion [from that series] is the musical [here]. So “Marilyn the Musical” is the beating heart of the whole show, and everybody’s lives turn around it and it’s a place of intersection for them.

Do you anticipate “Marilyn” as being the heartbeat of the season or the series?
TR: I have to get through season 1. There are, of course, thoughts about how to continue it…I adore her. She’s been a wonderful muse for us. There’s great beauty and tragedy and liveliness and shocking sexuality and poor behavior. She’s an amazing icon to have this whole enterprise.

Is the Karen versus Ivy fight for the role of Marilyn going to play out for a significant number of episodes?
TR: Oh, I would say so. [Laughs] Yes, indeed.

Do the blows stay above the belt, or does either one of them ever stoop to fighting dirty?
TR: Oh, I think some of the fighting gets a bit dirty. I think that’s a fair assumption.

The pilot also introduced Julia’s desire for a child. Will that be pursued or will it be backburnered as “Marilyn” goes forward?
TR: All of the stories, they come and go. It’s like a good nighttime soap. Yes, that story comes along for the ride and so do other stories.

Is Derek going to get increasingly, um, jerky?
TR: Certainly Derek remains at the center of the problems of the show. He is our antagonist, but we’re putting a lot of energy into seeing as many colors of him as we can.

Bernadette Peters is coming on to play Ivy’s mother. We’ve seen that relationship is a little bit strained, but how is it when she shows up?
TR: You know what? I want you guys to watch it. [Laughs]

Fair enough. Have there been any unexpected difficulties you guys have faced?
TR: It is a challenging show. We have to get the songs written and approved well before we shoot them, so we have to sort of back up the whole enterprise. We have to write a lot of episodes before — we had to have eight episodes finished before we even started shooting, because you have to know what songs are going into each episode, Marc and Scott need to have time to write the songs, and then they have to go into demos and pre-record and the girls have to go in — or whomever is singing, because Christian Borle (Tom) is going to sing a song in episode 10 — and then those recordings have to get in the hand of the choreographer, who needs to choreograph the number and teach the number to the people who are dancing in it so when on the day we shoot it, everything’s in place. It’s like 3-D chess or something. You really have to keep track of everything. It feels like a rubik’s cube. You turn and you change something and something else moves. It’s interesting because in television, sometimes people get panicky because everything is moving so fast. People make big decisions in short amounts of time. But what I’ve discovered on this show is anytime a change is happening you have to slow down and go, “What would happen if we do that?” Because there are so many threads that come unraveled. It’s a little bit of a juggling act.

SMASH airs Mondays at 10 PM on NBC.


SMASH: Rewatch ‘Let Me Be Your Star,’ ‘National Pastime’ and More Musical Numbers
SMASH Recap: Season Premiere

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One Response to “SMASH: Creator Theresa Rebeck Talks About Her New Show”

  1. Rory on February 13th, 2012 7:24 pm

    Nice interview.

    Yay! that Christian is gonna to sing.