Hairspray composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman have written all the original songs for Smash‘s show-within-show musical.
“It’s amazing, some of the stuff they write in less than 24 hours,” Hilty explains.
“It’s incredible, especially when you think about all the levels they’re writing for. Not only are the songs appropriate for the Marilyn musical but lyrically they support whatever’s going on in the character’s life for whoever is singing it.
“So they’re kind of doing double duty lyrically with all of their songs.
“It was Scott Wittman’s idea to focus on Marilyn for the musical because he saw how many plotlines could be mirrored in the character’s lives. It’s quite ingenious, actually.”
More established pop tunes are performed outside of Bombshell to stop the show from becoming too niche for a broad audience.
“It was something we talked about a lot in the beginning. Ultimately it’s not about Theatre as much as it is about the characters. I often liken the show to things like ER. I’m not a doctor but I still love watching ER. I don’t tune in to watch a surgical procedure but because the characters aree fascinating and the relationships are captivating.
“It’s about so much more. But if you do like Musicals you’re going to get a big, splashy number every night. But I don’t think you have to love Theatre to get this show.”
Writer Theresa Rebeck created Smash, and while she will no longer remain showrunner, Hilty believes she made an indelible impression.
“She’s a world renowned playwright and famous for creating such well-rounded characters who are interesting. I feel lucky enough to have gotten to work with her as much as I did.”
The character of Ivy has divided audiences as to whether she or Karen (Katharine McPhee) should ultimately land the coveted Marilyn role. Ivy’s relationship with director Derek (Jack Davenport) has been tempestuous in just 15 episodes.
“People feel strongly about Ivy, whether they love her or hate her or want to sleep with her….but it’s great. You have to have characters do these things to further the plot. But I love that she behaves badly, because it’s human,” she explains.
“Nobody is good all the time. We all make mistakes and you actually see Ivy being remorseful for some of the things she does –and not so remorseful for others. So it makes her a really interesting character to play.”
Despite the on-screen rivalry with McPhee, Hilty says they are some of her favourite scenes. But it’s hard to beat working with guest star Bernadette Peters.
“Oh my goodness, she’s been a lifelong idol of mine, so the fact that I not only got to work with her, but she played my mother was too good to be true!”
With Season One now behind her, Hilty is working on an album of songs from the movies and is excited about the prospects for Season Two -but doesn’t have any hints about where the story may go.
“I have no idea and I’m just as excited to find out what happens in Season Two as everybody else, because nothing’s for sure yet. All the writers are meeting right now and figuring out what’s going to happen. I’m assuming there will be lots of changes and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next –particularly for Ivy!
“I want to see her get it together and have something of her own that she can be totally proud of and not feel threatened by anybody or anything. Maybe even have a healthy relationship. I don’t even know if that’s possible for her. I want to see some good things happen to her.”
No doubt it will also include more guest stars, so far they have included Uma Thurman and Nick Jonas, while the regular cast includes Anjelica Huston and Debra Messing. It’s not hard to get good names when your show is produced by Steven Spielberg, who has taken a hands-on interest in the show’s success.
“He comes by the set all the time. It’s so crazy to answer my phone and have somebody say ‘I have Steven Speilberg’ on the phone! It’s something I’ve always joked about all my life. Whenever my phone rings I sigh and say ‘Oh! I have Steven Spielberg bothering me again for another movie!’ It’s something that we always joke about,” she laughs.
“The fact that he even knows I exist on the planet is unreal and he’s just the nicest, most generous man. He loves the show and is super, super supportive.”
But what about the New York set? Surely the ‘legit’ industry of Broadway is cynical about the small screen tackling a backstage musical?
“People in the industry either really like it or they have a real problem with the fact that it doesn’t really show exactly what goes on backstage. But they’re kind of missing the point. We’re making a Drama not a Reality show. So I hope the people in the industry realise that it’s making people more excited about Musical Theatre.
“I don’t think anybody really thinks that any of our shenanigans are what really happens. And even if they did, who cares?
“There’s a big ‘rumour’ that Bombshell is ‘coming to Broadway!’ But it would take years to develop any musical, especially this one because right now we only have songs and they’re tailored to our TV show.
“The fact that people are interested in seeing it is, I think, a really good sign for theatre in general.”
Smash the soundtrack is released via Sony Music.