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Bombshell on Broadway? The cast and producers of Smash weigh in

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Jay Brady

Some canceled TV shows get Netflix reboots, some get a last-minute save from Hulu, and others—like NBC’s infamously ill-fated 2012 musical dramedy, Smash— get a one-night-only reunion on Broadway. Thanks to the fastest-funded theater Kickstarter in history—$100,000 in three hours—the cast of Smash (including Debra Messing, Katharine McPhee, and Megan Hilty) reunited in New York on June 8 for a sold-out concert production of Bombshell, the fictional musical-within-the-show about Marilyn Monroe. In doing so, they raised more than $800,000 for performing-arts nonprofit the Actors Fund. Messing, who played writer (and scarf lover) Julia Houston, tells EW, “Smash never was the show we all wanted it to be… but to be able to put it on an actual Broadway stage for the people who most loved it felt like a perfect cherry on the cake.”

The series had a tumultuous two-season run with off-camera drama (creator and playwright Theresa Rebeck stepped down as showrunner) and occasional onscreen loopiness (hello, Bollywood dream sequence!). But despite its brief life span and uneven story lines, Smash has amassed a cult-ish following thanks largely to an original soundtrack that can hold its own against the best of Broadway. “There’s not a week that [goes] by where someone [doesn’t] tell me how much they loved Smash,” says executive producer Neil Meron. Adds Scott Wittman, who directed the reunion event and co-wrote the show’s music with his partner, Marc Shaiman: “The songs have such a life, and [on YouTube there are covers by] everyone from a drag bar in Atlanta to a 14-year-old boy in his bedroom to high school choirs and marching bands. I know there’s a life out there for it somewhere.”

That’s what fans are hoping. Executive producer Steven Spielberg’s original dream for Smash was to create a full-blown Broadway musical born from the TV show; Monday’s performance felt like a sign of life. While a stage production would require a book, one bonus is that there’s already a built-in audience for the score. “Even though Smash didn’t have enough viewers to allow NBC to continue it, it was still millions of people,” Shaiman says. “Millions of people were hearing these songs every week, and that’s a lot of people!” Smash executive producers Craig Zadan and Meron, who also produced the Bombshell concert, insist that they’re just basking in the success of the performance. “Of course we’d love to see Bombshell have a life on the stage,” Meron says. “But we’d also like to catch our breath and then see where everyone is at.” But Messing has faith: “There’s a real musical there, if they get a really talented book writer.” Perhaps one who loves knitted accessories. (Additional reporting by Hillary Busis)

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