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Smash TV Show Review - Who Will Play Marilyn Monroe in the Musical?

Updated on January 2, 2013
Karen Cartwright Auditions for Marilyn
Karen Cartwright Auditions for Marilyn

Find out more about Smash Season 2. Will the show go on? Will they be able to get over the hurdles. Will Ivy ever get over her "feel sorry for me" story.

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Smash TV Show Synopsis

NBC's Smash TV show follows the everyday life of a young woman called Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee), who is beautiful and has raw musical talent but is struggling to become an actress. She goes on numerous auditions and performs for a panel of judges but none of them seem to notice her. The only feedback she seems to get is that her resume is a little on the light side, meaning she doesn't have enough experience. Karen does her best to stay motivated and positive in the face of failure.

If the constant rejection wasn't hard enough to deal with, Karen also has to deal with the constant disappointment of her parents. Although her parents agree that Karen is talented, they feel the time for pursuing her dreams has past and it's time to face reality. They can't see their little girl being a waitress for the rest of her life. Afterall, a New York lifestyle is expensive.

Karen's boyfriend, Dev Sundaram (Raza Jaffrey), lends her moral support and insists that Karen will make it. Karen's Mother just wishes Karen would hurry up and marry Dev. He clearly loves Karen and is a good catch too. He works in the Public Sector so has a stable income with prospects, and enjoys his job.

Ivy Lynn as Marilyn
Ivy Lynn as Marilyn

Meanwhile, Julia Houston (Debra Messing) and Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) are work partners. They write musicals together including the songs, storyline and the lyrics. Although Julia is supposed to be winding down after their most recent Musical success she quickly changes gear when Tom's new assistant, Ellis Tanchareon (Jamie Cepero), suggests the idea of a Marilyn Musical.

When Tom mentions they could have a baseball number, since Marilyn Monroe dated Joe DiMaggio, Julia jumps on board. Julia thinks she'll be able to manage it as it normally takes years to get these types of projects off the ground. She was planning to take a year off to adopt a child, since it's can be a long process.

Tom speaks with an actress, Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) he knows well as she is currently in their Chorus Line in their current musical. Tom starts to write a few songs for the Marilyn Musical and Ivy sings them and performs them.

Who Makes the Better Marilyn?
Who Makes the Better Marilyn?

Who Should Play Marilyn Monroe?

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If you like Smash then you'll absolutely love ABC's Nashville TV show starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as country singer rivals.

While recording one of the songs, Tom's assistant records the session on his cell phone and then uploads it to YouTube. This creates hype around the project and rushes it forward. They are approached by the Musical Producer, Eileen Rand (Angelica Houston), who would like to take the project forward. Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) is brought on as the Musical Director. He has worked with Tom before and they rarely agree.

Although Tom thinks Ivy Lynn should play the role of Marilyn, Derek totally disagrees so auditions are held.

Karen Cartwright performs the Christina Aguilera hit You Are Beautiful and this time the phone doesn't interrupt her audition. Karen earns herself a call back, along with Ivy Lynn.

Ivy Lynn looks the part and has sex appeal. On the other hand, Karen Cartwright is fresh and vulnerable.

Although Derek liked Karen's audition he is unsure of her ability to pull off the role as she is green. He calls her to come to his apartment, late the next evening. Karen rushes over there and Derek tries to place her in a comprimising position but Karen handles herself well, and passes the test.

Karen is ecstatic.

Smash cast and characters
Smash cast and characters
Katharine McPhee
Katharine McPhee

Karen Cartwright

Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright - A struggling actress who suddenly finds herself joint favorite for the role of Marilyn Monroe.

Hopefully, history doesn't repeat and Karen Cartwright doesn't finds herself as runner up to Ivy Lynn, like Katharine McPhee lost to Taylor Hicks on American Idol.

Debra Messing
Debra Messing

Julia Houston

Debra Messing as Julia Houston - the famous songwrite/lyricist and the co-wroter of the Marilyn Musical.

Debra Messing was great in Will and Grace, where she also interacted closely with a gay guy. In Smash, she works with the character Tom Levitt, who is clearly gay. Debra Messing has also worked with Jack Davenport before on the movie The Wedding Date.

Jack Davenport
Jack Davenport

Derek Wills

Jack Davenport as Derek Wills - The Director of the Musical. Also a womanizer and arrogant and closer with Eileen Rand than with the writers of the Marilyn Musical.

Although Jack Davenport is a Britsih actor he is well known in the USA and most recently played the role of Llyoyd Simcoe in the Tv series FlashForward. He also had a reoccurring role in the hit movie series Pirates of the Caribbean.

Megan Hilty
Megan Hilty

lvy Lynn

Megan Hilty as lvy Lynn - An experienced actress who is looking for a bigger role and thought Marilyn was her part, until Karen Cartwright entered the picture.

Megan Hilty has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies including Melissa & Joey.

Christian Borle
Christian Borle

Tom Levitt

Christian Borle as Tom Levitt - The gay writer on the Marilyn Project who clearly has a grievance with the Director Jack Davenport.

Christian Borle has experience with Musicals as he was in Legally Blonde the Musical

Anjelica Houston
Anjelica Houston

Eileen Rand

Anjelica Houston as Eileen Rand - The Producer and Financier of the Marilyn Musical. Eileen is currently divorcing her husband and it's not going well.

Anjelica Houston is a great actress and can play almost any role. Her favorite parts for me have been in Medium, her role as Morticia Addams in Addams Family Values and her role as the Grand High Witch in The Witches.

Jaime Cepero
Jaime Cepero

Ellis Tanchareon

Jaime Cepero as Ellis Tanchareon - Tom's personal assistant and the one who came up with the idea of a Marilyn Musical. Also it is unclear what his sexual orientation is so far.

Smash appears to be the first part Jaime Cepero has had in television.

Raza Jaffrey
Raza Jaffrey

Dev Sundaram

Raza Jaffrey as Dev Sundaram - Karen Cartwrights boyfriend. He clearly adores her and believes Karen can make it but he realizes it's tough. He works at the Mayor's office and loves his job.

Raza Jaffrey is mostly known for his role in the British TV series Spooks and his role on Mistresses.

Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman

Rebecca Duvall

Uma Thurman joins the cast of Smash for 4 or 5 episodes, as her character throws her hat in the ring to play the role of Marilyn.

She plays the actress Rebecca Duvall in Smash. She's a famous actress and is offered the role of Marilyn to draw in the crowds. The funny thing is Rebecca really can't sing!

Smash TV Show Trailer

Potential Disasters to Come in the Smash TV Series

When Musicals, movies or TV shows are filmed, you can sometimes hear lots of different horror stories of what is occurring behind the set. The same could be said of Smash.

The Smash TV Show has a lot of factors within the show which could result in the Marilyn Monroe Musical crashing and burning. Most of the characters have a good backstory and were developed a little in the pilot episode. You can see that these personal issues may come to have disastrous effetcs on the project.

Julia was planning to take time off to adopt a baby. Her husband also quit his job to take the year off too. How will Julia's working on a new project affect their relationship and production of the Musical?

Tom and Derek really don't like each other at all. I can see this friction causing a lot of issues. When the writer and the Director despise each other, that's generally not a good thing.

Derek seems to be a bit of a womanizer at times too. He's already called Karen to his apartment, late at night to "show him what she's got." If Derek continues with this type of behaviour it could cause problems with any females involved in the production.

Eileen is also a wild card. She is currently divorcing her husband and her assets are currently frozen while they go to court to resolve their financial separation. Without funding how will the project continue?

The biggest issue still remains as to who will play the role of Marilyn Monroe. Ivy has the experience but Karen has the talent. Choosing who gets to be Marilyn will make or break the show. Either way I think the show will be a Smash!!

Wlll You Like the Smash TV Show?

Get the Smash Soundtrack

I think Smash will be a big hit and has a compelling aspect to it. The songs are catchy and I found myself singing along to them.

Many of the songs in Smash were written specifically for the show. There are a few cover songs, but they are performed spectaculary and add further to the show.

One of the best cover songs is performed by the Marilyn Monroe chorus. They sign Adele's Rumour Has It at a bar. However, the best song in the show has to be Let Me Be Your Star, which you can listen to from the video clip on your right.

If you are an American Idol fan and loved Katharine McPhee (who didn't) then the Smash TV show is for you. I really feel this is Katharine McPhee's year. Doing Smash could be as good for her as Dream Girls was for Jennifer Hudson.

I am also a huge fan of Debra Messing from WIll and Grace and the British actor Jack Davenport always makes things more interesting.

Smash will probably appeal to people who love Glee, or loved Glee when it first came out. And if Smash follows the same formula as Glee then expect the Smash soundtrack to be the must have album of 2012.


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    • Lauryallan profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      You think so Donna? I really liked Karen as Marilyn. I thought she did an amazing job. I was kinda over Ivy by the end, she was just always on a downer.

      I hear that next season it might be about another musical altogether. It might not have anything to do with Marilyn, but that's what they had intended originally, to use the show as a way of finding successful musicals they could actually put on Broadway.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I don't know whether or not I'll watch next season. I love the characters, but Ivy is soooo Marilyn, and I watched every week just to see her perform. Karen as Marilyn? Just doesn't work.

    • Lauryallan profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Hi jenniferg78. Yeah I have to say I am huge fan of Smash and really like how they have developed the characters too. I was really surprised by how much I like Angelica Houston and how her character has developed over the last few episodes.

    • jenniferg78 profile image


      6 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      I like this show for many reasons. One being that the characters are "real" and the story line keeps you wanting to watch more. The characters also have some depth to them and are not just there to fill the screen like in Glee. Glee's first season was good, then the writers got carried away and went on too many ridiculous tangents to keep up.

      I really hope that this show continues to surprise and keeps the audience immersed.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      the show is fantastic.I LOVE IT.see it people is the best.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      That is the worst Marilyn in tv history! Hilty that is

    • Lauryallan profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Hey thanks for reading my article so thoroughly!! Yeah you are totally right it was Hicks, not Lautner. For some reason I got the name wrong. Of course the guy that plays Jacob from Twilight wasn't a contestant on American Idol. Thanks for letting me know, I've corrected it now.

      And yeah I think she should have won too. By the way, anyone know what became of Taylor Hicks?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Found an error in your article, unless you were being facetious.

      "Hopefully, history doesn't repeat and Karen Cartwright doesn't finds herself as runner up to Ivy Lynn, like Katharine McPhee lost to Taylor Lautner on American Idol."

      Kat lost to Taylor HICKS, not Lautner. (I think she should have won.) But yeah, looking forward to seeing this show and Kat looks great!

    • Lauryallan profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Glad you liked it iamaudraleigh

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My boyfriend has ROKU which gave us a free preview through amazon. It was excellent...a breath of fresh air!

    • Lauryallan profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Yeah I hope Smash will be better than Glee. I have to say I actually like it more than I liked Glee, and I liked Glee a lot in the beginning.

    • Lauryallan profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      I agree with you 100% Alecia and glad you enjoyed the review.

    • Robin Oatley profile image

      Robin Oatley 

      6 years ago

      I enjoyed watching Glee in the beginning so I gave this show a whirl because this show was supposed the be somewhat like Glee. Smash looks really good and I hope that it will not take the same turn Glee did.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I saw the pilot and if it keeps going in this direction, I might keep watching. Glee, unfortunately, has tried my patience in ridiculous plot lines, character disalignment, and too many tribute episodes. It's okay but it used to be great. I think Smash has the possibility of stealing it's thunder by being more realistic and using music in a more purposeful way. I enjoyed reading your review very much.

    • Lauryallan profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Glad you liked the Hub and thx for the votes. Hope you enjoy the show if do you get around to watching it.

    • alocsin profile image


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I didn't know about this show though have seen some of the ads. Your hub makes me want to take a look. Voting this Up and Interesting.


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