Stage Lights / Larger Than Life

Behind the scenes of a Broadway musical is the setting for a new hit TV series.

"Smash," the new American drama series debuting tonight on Hot 3, is indeed a smash hit. Produced by Steven Spielberg, the series follows the action behind the scenes of a fictional Broadway musical. It pools the best of talents from various fields, attracts a large audience, and succeeds in presenting this larger-than-life genre through the medium of television.

The drama focuses on the lives of the playwrights, producers and actors involved in the Broadway musical "Marilyn," which tells the life of movie star Marilyn Monroe.

Smash - 2.2012

This story centers on the two playwrights, Julia Houston (played by Debra Messing of "Will and Grace" fame ) and Tom Levitt (played by Christian Borle ), who must decide who will play the part of the starlet. Will they pick Ivy Lynne (Megan Hilty ), the actress with Broadway experience who looks like Monroe, or will the give the nod to newly discovered Karen Cartwright, she of the gossamer voice and brown hair (Katharine McPhee, a former contestant on "American Idol" )? These two characters perform the really enjoyable numbers in the show.

The series manages to be musical without being overwhelmed by songs (as is "Glee" ). It is also a fascinating drama that, despite depicting theater, adheres to a reserved script.

We have watched a long line of behind-the-scenes television shows, beginning with "Larry Sanders," continuing through "Grosse Pointe" and "Air Sport" and culminating in "30 Rock." Now is the time to expose the stormy action behind the scenes of the world of Broadway musicals.

Several talented names have been brought in for the job. Messing, a top-notch television star, is joined in the series by the film star Anjelica Huston ("Pritzi's Honor" ), who plays the role of the producer in the midst of a divorce from the man who is also her business partner. British actor Jack Davenport ("Coupling" ) is cast in the role of director Derek Wills, a professional who lacks any moral backbone.

Also involved in the series are Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, creators of such box office smash musicals as "Hairspray" and "Chicago." Playwright Theresa Rebeck is responsible for the script and Tony Award-winning stage director Michael Mayer ("Spring Awakening" ) directs.