If NBC’s “Smash” really was a Broadway musical, it would return to New York now, its problems fixed on the road.
The second season, launching Tuesday, Feb. 5, sheds plots that alienated fans and features new guest stars including Sean Hayes and Liza Minnelli. In the first three episodes, Jennifer Hudson sings amazing solos.
New characters include Jimmy and Kyle (stage actors Jeremy Jordan and Andy Mientus), who are writing the musical “Hit List.” Tune in just to hear Jordan belt; it proves why he’s a Broadway star.
“Smash” is an odd hybrid — a TV musical drama. It focuses on the behind-the-scenes work of mounting a Broadway musical. In this case, it’s “Bombshell,” about Marilyn Monroe.
The first season had Ivy (Megan Hilty), the seasoned Broadway chorine, competing against Karen (Katharine McPhee), the ingenue, to play Marilyn. Though it looks as if Karen wins, nothing is certain.
Trying to not spoil any plot points, Hilty acknowledges it is fair to say the casting of Marilyn isn’t definite.
“Many things can change before it gets to Broadway,” Hilty tells Zap2it. “[Ivy] is back in New York and alive, but there were questions about that because she had a fistful of pills in her hand. A lot of people are surprised, but she is back to work.”
This season, Ivy matures.
“I wanted to see Ivy get something she can be proud of and not be threatened,” Hilty says. “And in Season 2, she is trying, both personally and professionally.”
“When the premiere begins, you will see that Ivy did not take those pills, and you will see how we deal with the repercussions of that moving forward,” executive producer Joshua Safran says.
Other characters also evolve.
Tom (Christian Borle), possibly TV’s most patient character as he tolerates partner Julia’s (Debra Messing) constant whining and unprofessionalism, also changes.
“It must mean some kind of conflict,” Borle says. “We see a little more of Tom striking out on his own. And he goes to surprising places, and one major turn of events where Tom finds himself in new territory as an artist.
“He is now becoming his own person, not just part of a team,” Borle says.
As some relationships change, others end, which is another good reason to try “Smash” again.
Ellis (Jaime Cepero), the assistant who all but hissed, is mentioned in the third episode but mercifully is unseen. Warning: Executive producer Neil Meron says that Ellis is “still alive.”
Eased out are Frank (Brian d’Arcy James), Julia’s cuckolded husband; Dev (Raza Jaffrey), Karen’s ex; and Will Chase (Michael), Julia’s dalliance.
The first three episodes showcase the incredible singing and dancing talent on “Smash,” how either woman could carry “Bombshell” and how much back-stabbing goes on backstage.
This season, Borle sings more, proving why recently he won a Tony.
“I know that this is not a reason to tune into a TV show, but the sheer amount of good will and love that goes into the show is fun to watch,” Borle says. “And when I watch (Marc) Shaiman and (Scott) Wittman introduce another song they have written within the last four days, it just becomes our routine. Every so often, you just have to take a step back and realize how staggering it is – everyone is operating at such a high level.”
Despite persistent rumors, “Bombshell” isn’t heading immediately to Broadway.
“We stand on the set, and we watch the ‘Bombshell’ moments,” Meron says. “And we always say, ‘Wouldn’t this show be great on Broadway?’ And that’s basically where we’ve left it … . But I think the first priority is to make the (TV) show.”