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Composer Marc Shaiman Explains Smash’s Downfall

Photo: NBC/2013 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

When Smash debuted, one of its main selling points was that Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman would be doing the music. And they did a bang-up job! Now that the show has belted its final number, Shaiman has written a postmortem explaining all the songs he and Wittman wrote for the series. “I suppose the greatest frustration [we] felt were how the actual moments in Marilyn Monroe’s life that led us to write our songs were almost never explained in the episodes, which was a shame for it would have enriched the storylines of Tom & Julia and made many of our choices clearer and maybe made our songs more meaningful,” Shaiman writes. The whole thing is great, but here are some choice pieces:

Ah, the infamous Bollywood number.

Scott thought it was time to do a number that could, in some way, involve the entire cast and we knew Raza had a great voice (and was the son of an Indian sea captain!). We also thought, once we delivered the song, that a scene would be created that would perfectly set-up and lead into a fantasy. Imagine if ALL the cast had gone to dinner, imagine that Bollywood images were unmistakably all around the restaurant, imagine them all getting quite drunk or stoned, imagine…imagine…

If you haven’t gotten the point yet, the first rule of show biz is “SET UP IS EVERYTHING”. Someone carve that on my tombstone.

On that “Another Op’nin’, Another Show” mash-up:

When we read a script that called for “There’s No Business Like Show Business” to be sung (without irony!) for a montage, we were flabbergasted. Then we had to fight to get me to be the arranger, since up to that point no cover song was chosen, arranged or produced by either Scott or myself (despite our experience doing those things…Google us!). I didn’t expect to produce/arrange every cover, but I didn’t expect to do none of them, especially “There’s No Business Like Show Business”!

Yes, get out your violins, because at this point in the making of Smash, where suddenly I wasn’t worthy of arranging “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, I actually broke down and cried.

And most damningly:

Which brings up one final thing I never understood, which is…where were the prima donna costume designers, nerdy orchestrators, crazy professor set designers? Where were the things, so absent on Smash, that are the things you most get when you walk into a rehearsal of a musical: laughter and joy? Damn, everyone on the show was so miserable!

Read the whole thing; it’s fantastic.

Composer Marc Shaiman Explains Smash’s Downfall