NBC had a show called Smash, a two-season drama about the behind-the-scenes drama of mounting Broadway shows. One such production was Hit List, which had a fictional development and run on TV and, now, a brief cabaret engagement in NYC. The characters on Smash also starred as characters in these productions. With the Hit List concert, the Smash actors performed a show as their characters in Hit List. Here are the ways in which it was totally fun and totally mind-warping. Theater!
1. The little details that made it seem like you were seeing a Broadway show.
The venue passed out Playbills that mimicked the ones you’d get in a real theater – including a list of “current” shows (right) that was made up of all of Smash’s fake productions. And they had show-inspired drink specials, too.
2. Krysta Rodriguez as Pop Culture Commentary Starlette The Diva.
From opening the show with gun-toting foreshadowing to her sultry first VMAs performance (see above clip), you couldn’t take your eyes or ears off Rodriguez when she was on stage. Though The Diva — main character Amanda’s arch-nemesis, who was introduced as “the biggest pop star since Gaga” – went off the rails (literally, and in a sort of cheesy way) at the end, Rodriguez owned every manic detail.
3. Andy Mientus as Nick/the Narrator.
As Nick, his Hit List character, Mientus had a few actual lines and the thinnest of supporting roles (even less than Kyle, his Smash character who died a premature Jonathan Larson-esque death) but he charmed by taking on the necessary duties of narrator to help guide the audience through the minimally-staged production. Particularly entertaining were his recitations of stage directions like “he kisses her,” said with a wry wink. Mientus, who will star as Marius in the forthcoming revival of Les Miserables, also showed his vocal chops on mid-tempo tune “Swim,” an Andrew McMahon number added to the expanded Hit List score.
4. Ann Harada introduced the show.
In a wink and a nod to its roots, the Bombshell score played over the house PA as the crowd entered 54 Below for the Hit List concert, and Harada, Smash’s stage manager, reprised her role to introduce the show. “We encourage you to turn your cell phones on. Text, take pictures, Instagram, take video. We don’t own this performance any more than you do! Except NBC kind of does, so maybe don’t put it on YouTube.”
5. You couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with Jeremy Jordan.
On Smash it was hard at times to reconcile Jordan’s hopeless bad boy Jimmy with Jesse, the character he wrote loosely based on his own life. On his own, Jesse was more aw-shucks and less “WTF, dude” so it was easy to be swept up. Also, boy can SING.
6. Carrie Manolakos stepped in for Katharine McPhee to play Amanda.
Just like in real live theater, Manolakos – who had recorded demos for Smash – got the gig when the original star was unavailable. Good job, casting department – the physical and vocal similarities were uncanny.
7. The real Hit List composers were part of the show.
In Smash, Jordan and Mientus’ characters wrote Hit List. In the real world, music by a host of up-and-coming musical theater and pop composers made up the score. Many of those – including Andrew McMahon (above), Drew Gasparini, Joe Iconis, and Benj Pasek & Justin Paul – were on hand at 54 Below and played piano during their songs.
8. The future of Hit List is uncertain.
Like many an in-the-works musical, Hit List’s in-demand concert doesn’t necessarily mean the show has a future. The actors and creative team are all currently working on other projects, and things get complicated in the rights department – but as Smash’s Season 2 showrunner Josh Safran told BuzzFeed, “We’ll see!”