When 'Hit List' Got Another Shot At An Audience
Jeremy Jordan, who anchored one of Smash's storylines in Season 2, returned to the material at New York's 54 Below for a concert version of the musical his songwriter character was writing on the NBC show. Cindy Ord/Getty Images for 54 Below hide caption
For most of its two-year run on NBC, the series Smash was pretty much a hot mess. Ostensibly about the creation of Broadway musicals, it only tangentially resembled the real thing. And its plots and characters got soapier and soapier as the show went on.
Still, I recorded every episode on my DVR, if only because the program offered a weekly glimpse of some of the finest musical-theater actors on the Broadway stage — among them Megan Hilty, Christian Borle, Jeremy Jordan, Krysta Rodriguez, plus occasional guest stars like Bernadette Peters — singing and dancing. It also featured location shots from right in the heart of the theater district.
NBC pulled the plug last season, though, and that, I thought, was that. But a few weeks ago came the announcement of a concert version of Hit List, the Rent-like musical from the show's second season, with some of the actors from Smash starring in it. It turns out I wasn't the only one curious to see it; the three performances sold out in half an hour.
Last week, I attended a press preview at 54 Below, the swanky cabaret where the show was to be presented, and got to meet some of the performers as well as Joshua Safran, the showrunner for Smash's second season. The first season was centered on a fictional Broadway show called Bombshell and the two actresses vying for the lead role of Marilyn Monroe. But Safran, who replaced Smash creator Theresa Rebeck, wanted to shake things up.
"So much of the process of Bombshell had been seen," he says, "from the initial idea to the workshop to an opening out of town. And, obviously Bombshell's journey wasn't done, but you also couldn't repeat those moments with Bombshell, because it had moved past it."
Safran found inspiration in the documentary Show Business, which looked at four musicals of the 2004 season — not just the big hit, Wicked, but the little engine that could, Avenue Q (which eventually bested Wicked in the Tony Awards), as well as the Boy George flop Taboo and Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori's Caroline, or Change.
"So that was where the idea of having a second or competing musical came about," Safran says. "And we wanted to make the sound of the second musical and the tone of the second musical completely different."
Where all of the retro-by-design songs for Bombshell came from the Tony Award-winning team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray), Safran recruited a bunch of up-and-coming musical theater writers, among them Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (A Christmas Story) and Joe Iconis, to write tunes for the competing show, Hit List.
"I knew I wanted the other musical to sound like a rock musical, like Rent, like Next to Normal," explains Safran. He listened to Iconis' tunes "Broadway, Here I Come" and "The Goodbye Song," and knew it was the tone he was looking for.
"So, in a very strange way, those songs actually created Hit List," Safran says. In fact he had a few weeks in the schedule before he had to even come up with a plot for the fictional musical.
Tony-nominated actor Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) was brought in to play Jimmy, the angst-ridden songwriter with many secrets, for Smash's second season. His character was also Hit List's composer and star and had a tortured love affair with actress Karen Cartwright (Katherine McPhee).
By Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Performed by Jeremy Jordan and Carrie Manolakos.
By Lucie Slivas. Performed by Krysta Rodriguez, Jeremy Jordan, Andy Mientus and ensemble.
By Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Performed by Jeremy Jordan.
Jordan says that somewhere around the middle of the season, he and the other actors began to have an inkling of what the fictional Hit List was about. "But for the purposes of Smash," he says, "I think it was more geared towards forwarding the story for the characters in Smash."
And, apparently, as the second season of Smash continued, that plot became kind of flexible, says Krysta Rodriguez. She played Karen's roommate, then Hit List cast mate, then bitter rival.
"It was more important to know how the songs related to the [TV] plot that everybody was watching, rather than the plot of Hit List," Rodriguez says. In the concert version, though, "we get to bring out what we originally intended, and that means that songs that were sung by [certain] characters are now being sung by different characters, because that's how they would fit in Hit List and not how they worked on Smash."
The idea for the concert version came from Jennifer Ashley Tepper, program director at 54 Below and a self-professed theater geek who was a big fan of Smash. She contacted Safran, "and we started having a conversation about doing it live. We just wanted to show the songs in order, and what the show would be, if it was something you went to see at the Winter Fringe."
She got enthusiastic responses from many of the Smash cast members, including Andy Mientus, who played Hit List's doomed book writer, Kyle.
"It's been so sweet," he says. "I feel like it's our 10-year reunion, but it's only been six months. But in television that's 10 years! It's a really sweet, joyous experience."
So a couple of days later, I joined an enthusiastic audience of Broadway babies and Smash fans to find out just what the fictional musical Hit List actually is. Safran had told me that "Hit List really deals with the power of fame these days in the music industry or the arts. And the idea that in order to be somebody, you have to pretend to be somebody else."
Which is probably the best way to describe the convoluted plot of the show, which has a wannabe American Idol-type singer, Amanda, stealing the songs of her Brooklyn boyfriend, Jessie, and running off to California, where she squares off with The Diva, a Lady Gaga-esque singer. Fame is found, even as hearts are broken and lives are shattered. And lots of songs — 19, in fact — are sung.
The show got an energetic reading, with a rock band that also featured a violin and cello, and a superb singing cast. Jordan played Jessie, a character not that different from the one he played in Smash, with vocal aplomb. Mientus, as his friend Nick, also rather charmingly contributed stage directions.
Rodriguez slunk through the audience and onto tables as the very sexy and completely unhinged Diva. And in the McPhee role, Carrie Manolakos, who did many of Hit List's original demos, had a chance to show off her considerable pipes.
So, would Hit List actually be a smash in the real world? I'm not so sure, but there are some genuinely impressive contributions from the young songwriters Safran hired.
Pasek and Paul wrote several of those contributions, including an excellent power ballad, "Caught in the Storm," sung by Jordan at the end of the first act.
And Lucie Silvas, a British songwriter I wasn't previously familiar with, contributed two superb numbers: the energetic Act 2 opening, "Calling Out My Name," and a lovely duet, "Heart Shaped Wreckage," that Jordan and Manolakos sang late in the show. If they make a cast album of this concert version of Hit List, I'd definitely buy it.
'Hit List' from 'Smash' performed in NYC: What you missed
Kinda. Sorta. Well, not really. But for a few brief, shining moments on Dec. 9 and 10, a gaggle of alumni from NBC’s failed musical experiment banded together to put on a show: a concert version of Hit List, the hip downtown musical that tried to wrest our attention from Bombshell in season 2.
As fans (and, yes, hate-watchers) know, in the context of the series, that attempt was largely unsuccessful — even if Hit List did go on to win a bunch of fake Tony awards. But in a small, moodily lit cabaret, when performed uninterrupted for an audience stacked with Smash partisans and Broadway insiders, something completely unexpected happened: Hit List worked. Sure, the show wasn’t exactly the groundbreaking edgefest Smash kept trying to insist it was — and it also wasn’t the self-referential campfest I was hoping it might be. But as a simple fable about a beautiful, fame-hungry jerk and the talented boy who inexplicably loves her, I could see this thing having legs beyond its three-performances-only run. (If and only if its writers can work out the rights issues with NBC, which might be impossible.)
Want more details? Gather round, pour yourselves a few martinis, and get comfy; the show will go on… right now! Here’s everything you missed by not going to Hit List:
1. A long, cold line
The wind was angry Monday night, my friends, like Derek the Director trying to insist that he did not have sexual relations with that backup dancer. Smash fans huddled in clumps outside the theater, growing restless as the clock ticked closer to the show’s ostensible start time (11:30 p.m. for the later performance) and thinking about the choices they’d made. I speculated that the entire event was actually a vindictive bait-and-switch — call it “Theresa Rebeck’s Revenge.” A girl with eyes like an Alaskan husky trolled the line, asking each standee if they’d be willing to sell their ticket. She’ll haunt my dreams for weeks to come.
2. Smash celebrity spotting
Season 2 showrunner Josh Safran! Bombshell co-composer Scott Wittman! Hit List co-composer Benj Pasek! Ex-Chuck Zachary Levi, who never appeared on Smash but does star in First Date on Broadway with Smash alum Krysta Rodriguez! (Later, he’d emerge from the bathroom and nearly run right into Rodriguez, who was standing in the audience about to perform a big, emotional ballad.) All were present and accounted for, along with other insiders. Missing from the room: Any Smash cast members besides Hit List stars Rodriguez, Jeremy Jordan, and Andy Mientus. Let’s just pretend Christian Borle, Anjelica Huston, and Megan Hilty were enjoying Bombshell‘s dark night by drinking wine and catching up on Scandal or something.
3. A cheeky meta program
The paper’s back cover featured a list of fake musicals and revivals mentioned over the years on Smash, done up to look like the shows listed in an actual Broadway program. Check it out below, and click here for a closer look.
54 Below, the venue presenting Hit List, also boasted a menu of Smash-themed drinks for the performance — including a Caught in the Dark-and-Stormy and a Jimmy Collins, which I assume tasted off-puttingly bitter.
4. An intro from Ann Harada
Better known to Broadway fans as Avenue Q‘s original Christmas Eve — and to Smashochists as Stage Manager Linda, one of the show’s unsung heroes. Before Hit List finally began, Harada appeared onstage to introduce it with the same intro Hit List got on Smash; audiences were encouraged to text, tweet, tumbl, keek, squonk, and narf the show as they watched it, because Hit List belongs to everyone, man. (Except, as Harada added, it really kind of belongs to NBC — so maybe don’t post videos of it on YouTube, okay?)
5. A coherent plot
Wait, Hit List‘s storyline was actually more specific than “ehh, fame!”? It’s true! Thank book writer (and ex-Smash staffer) Julia Brownell for crafting a script that credibly connected the fake show’s disparate songs, even if some of its beats continued not to make sense. (“Amanda,” Karen’s character, heads off to L.A. and gets famous under an assumed name… and nobody but Jimmy’s character Jesse knows her real identity? The Internet exists in this world, right?) And no offense to theater martyr Kyle Bishop, but Brownell’s dialogue worked much better than his ever did. (The staged Hit List, for example, excised this gem: “You sure this is gonna work? These two, together onstage? Nina wants nothing more than to bring The Diva down!” “Would you relax? This is the VMAs!”) Brownell also added in a part for Andy Mientus, Smash‘s doomed elf Kyle; in the concert version, Mientus both read the show’s stage directions and played Nick, Jesse’s supportive and long-suffering childhood best friend slash roommate. Wait, where have we heard that before?
6. Text message alerts
Remember Julia and Jimmy’s brilliant idea to send mass texts during the show, fully immersing their audience in the world of Hit List or something? Well, the staged Hit List did the exact same thing. Here’s the string of messages sent, in its entirety:
7. Katharine McPhee’s standout standin
Alas, though her face still graced Hit List‘s poster, the real Karen Cartwright was too busy seducing bar mitzvah-goers to attend the night’s festivities — so she was replaced by Carrie Manolakos, a talented singer/songwriter/actress whose smoky, emotive voice could be heard on Smash‘s demos. In other words, McPhee is to Rebecca Duvall as Manolakos is to Karen. (Watch your smoothies, Kat.)
8. Additional songs
Some of the songs performed in the staged Hit List were absent from Smash. They included:
– “Anymore,” written by Joe Iconis, a song about some jerk on Jesse’s titular “hit list.” He performs it for Amanda to prevent her from committing suicide; later, she steals it and repurposes it to be her first single as “Nina Hope.”
– “If I Had You,” written by Drew Gasparini, sung by Jesse after he becomes smitten with Amanda
– “The Guide to Success,” written by Joe Iconis, a sleazy anthem for Amanda’s sleazy new manager (the character Sam played in Smash‘s Hit List)
– “Calling Out My Name,” written by Lucie Silvas, sung by the show’s main characters at the top of Act 2 as they’re at their lowest point
– “Swim,” written by Andrew McMahon, which Nick sings to boost Jesse’s spirits — finally, a worthy spotlight for Andy Mientus!
– “Haddonfield (15 Years Later),” written by Joe Iconis, a despairing tune sung by The Diva when she returns to her empty childhood home. Fun fact: It was actually inspired by the plot of Halloween.
The best line in these extra songs? That’d be this quote from “The Guide to Success:” “And eventually, every relationship ends/So throw out your baby and murder your friends.”
9. No aerial act
Since the show was just a concert, we were cheated out of seeing Krysta Rodriguez performing acrobatics on an aerial silk. But there was a short piece of purple fabric attached to a projector near the stage, which served as a nod to her show-stopping Smash act.
10. Lots of glowing screens
There was no Wall o’ iPads. There were, however, plenty of iPhones held aloft by audience members who took Ann Harada’s opening manifesto to heart. So if you missed out on the performance, don’t worry: You might still be able to see most of it… provided you know where to look.
How "Hit List" Became A Real-Life Musical
In a moment of meta entertainment, Smash alumni Jeremy Jordan, Krysta Rodriguez, and Andy Mientus are reviving their characters from Hit List, the musical featured in Season 2 of the late NBC musical drama, for the stage. (Carrie Manolakos is taking over for Katherine McPhee in that order of operations.) The actors are leading a cast for three performances of Hit List at New York City's 54 Below, a so-called cabaret club for Broadway lovers. The show includes a brief book, penned by one of Smash's writers, Julia Brownell, and overseen by Smash Season 2 showrunner Josh Safran, who's also at the helm of the production. Hit List isn't a full-on play (yet), but it's definitely more than just a concert.
Below, Safran, Jordan, Mientus, and Jennifer Ashley Tepper, the director of programming at 54 Below, open up about how Hit List went from a Broadway show within a show about Broadway to being realized for the stage.
Hit List (musical)
2013 American musical
Original poster for Hit List
Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman
Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman
|Book||Julia Brownell (2013 Concert)|
Hit List is an American musical with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Drew Gasparini, Joe Iconis, Andrew McMahon, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, and Lucie Silvas and a book by Julia Brownell, based on the original fictitious musical from the second season of the NBC television series Smash.
Within the television series Hit List is created by characters Jimmy Collins (Jeremy Jordan) and Kyle Bishop (Andy Mientus). Hit List centers around three characters, Amanda, Jesse and "The Diva", as they seek to attain and hold onto fame. Amanda is portrayed by Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee), Jesse by Jimmy Collins and The Diva by Ana Vargas (Krysta Rodriguez).
On October 15, 2013, New York City venue 54 Below announced plans to stage Hit List in concert format. Jordan, Mientus and Rodriguez each appeared, with Carrie Manolakos standing in for McPhee. The musical's original concert production opened on December 8, 2013 and closed December 9, 2013 after 3 regular performances.
Hit List was created for season two of Smash, intended to be a rival production to Bombshell, the Marilyn Monroe biographical musical created for season one. Drew Gasparini, Joe Iconis, Andrew McMahon, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and Lucie Silvas created the material for the fictional musical.Smash season two showrunnerJoshua Safran envisioned Hit List as a "scrappy underdog" to the senior Bombshell, taking inspiration from the 2005 documentary film ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway, and from Broadway seasons which saw Wicked head-to-head with Avenue Q and Billy Elliot in competition with Next to Normal.
Safran wanted the sound of the second musical to completely contrast with that of Bombshell so he turned to rising theater writers. The first two songs selected for Hit List were "Broadway, Here I Come" and "The Goodbye Song", both by Joe Iconis. "So, in a very strange way, those songs actually created Hit List", Safran stated. He described Hit List as being about "really deal[ing] with the power of fame these days in the music industry or the arts. And the idea that in order to be somebody, you have to pretend to be somebody else."
Safran initially expressed interest in staging a real-world version of Hit List during the second season. "We all talk about doing a Hit List concert at Joe's Pub, which everyone wants to do ... and if I did, I would use some of the songs we never used." Following a performance of the song "Broadway, Here I Come" on Smash, 54 Below artistic director Jennifer Ashley Tepper contacted Safran via the social networking site Twitter. Tepper had previously collaborated with Joe Iconis, who wrote "Broadway, Here I Come".
On October 15, 2013, it was announced that Hit List would be staged in concert format at 54 Below for two performances on December 9. Tickets for both shows sold out in under an hour. Because of the high demand, an additional performance was scheduled for December 8. The concerts, under the musical direction of Benjamin Rauhala, was presented by Safran and Tepper, with a book written by screenwriter Julia Brownell. Smash stars Jeremy Jordan, Andy Mientus and Krysta Rodriguez performed as "Jesse", "Nick" and "The Diva" respectively.Katharine McPhee, whose character Karen Cartwright starred in the fictional Hit List, was unavailable; her role of "Amanda" was performed by Carrie Manolakos, who had recorded several demo versions of songs performed on Smash. Completing the cast are Molly Hager, Eric Michael Krop, Julia Mattison, Monet Julia Sabel, and Eric William Morris.
Songs that Safran had intended to use on Smash but did not were incorporated into the show, including "Anymore", "The Guide to Success" and "Haddonfield, 15 Years Later" by Iconis, "Calling Out My Name" by Lucie Silvas, "If I Had You" by Gasparini and "Swim" by McMahon.Hit List features 19 songs in total. Both Jordan and Rodriguez noted that the Hit List material when it appeared in Smash was more geared to advancing the Smash stories and characters rather than those of Hit List. With the live staging some songs were performed by different characters from those who performed them for the series.
Original 54 Below Concert Production
After creating a cult-like following from the television show, Hit List opened for a three show engagement at 54 Below on December 8, 2013 through December 9, 2013. The production was musically directed by Benjamin Rauhala, orchestrated by Charlie Rosen, and presented by Julia Brownell, Joshua Safran, and Jennifer Ashley Tepper. The original concert cast included Jeremy Jordan and Carrie Manolakos in the lead roles of Jesse and Amanda. The cast also featured Krysta Rodriguez as The Diva, Andy Mientus as Nick, and Eric William Morris as JB.
Synopsis (2013 Concert Version)
Setting: New York City, New Jersey, and Los Angeles, Modern Day
The Diva attends Nina Hope's concert she walks toward the stage raises a gun and pulls the trigger ("Broadway, Here I Come (Pre-Reprise)").
As "poor little rich girl" Amanda Brown performs for a record producer, she hopes that this is finally her time to make it as a pop star ("Good For You"). Jesse returns home to his dirty Brooklyn apartment where he is greeted by his roommate Nick. After a brief discussion with his roommate, Jesse goes to bed, but not before a quick smoke ("Rewrite This Story"). Following a confrontation with her family, who threaten to cut her off financially if she pursues her pop star dreams, Amanda, depressed and lonely heads to a deserted Brooklyn pier, where she contemplates suicide ("Broadway, Here I Come!"). Jesse seeing that Amanda is about to kill herself, intervenes by singing to her ("Anymore"). Infatuated with Amanda, Jesse delightedly tells his roommate about his love for her ("If I Had You"). Growing closer together Jesse and Amanda discuss Hollywood's biggest pop-star to date, The Diva ("Reach For Me"). Jesse confused as to why Amanda would want to be a fake sell out like The Diva, sits while she explains what it takes to be original ("Original"). After making love, Amanda sneaks out of bed, steals all of Jesse's sheet music and disappears into the night. Days later Nick sits in the apartment writing when Jesse enters, they discuss Amanda's disappearance. Jesse, the only one convinced Amanda didn't kill herself doubts that she will return. Two months later Jesse and Nick are closing up the bar in which they work at when Jesse takes interest in the radio. A familiar song echoes through the speakers as Jesse realizes it's Amanda singing one of his songs ("Anymore Reprise"). The radio DJ announces that the song is the newest single by up and rising pop-star Nina Hope. Jesse convinced he has to find Nina makes his way to Los Angeles ("I Heard Your Voice In A Dream"). Outside a small club Jesse comes face to face with Amanda transformed into Nina Hope. Jesse goes to Nina's hotel room, where he is coaxed into writing more music to help Nina's career. As Nina career ascends, Jesse falls back into drug abuse. Nina takes over the party of talent manager JB Planko and forces an audition onto him, he agrees to represent her ("Pretender"). Jesse looms over Nina, JB informs him that it doesn't matter if Nina lies about writing her own music regardless records will sell, after all it is a business ("Guide To Success"). Jesse sits in Nina's hotel room hidden away from the world writing music ("Don't Let Me Know (Pre-Reprise)"). Nina checks in on his writing and begins practicing "her" newest hit to perform for JB ("Don't Let Me Know"). JB loving Nina wants to market her to the world, what better way then a duet performance on the international television broadcast of the VMAs between Nina and his currently biggest star The Diva ("I'm Not Sorry"). As Nina's career soars The Diva has a public breakdown. Nina goes on a publicity tour, advertising her new cd "Hopeful". Jesse appalled that Nina would throw The Diva under the bus on Conan, pleads for her to join him on a trip back to New York. Nina tells JB of her plans to return home for a brief trip when he kisses her, they make love. Jesse waits for Nina, who is not coming, depressed leaves without her ("Caught In The Storm").
Nick is on the phone trying to get a hold of Jesse, The Diva is hopelessly trying to find herself and blames Nina for her problems, Jesse is on his way home to New York ("Calling Out My Name"). Jesse and The Diva stand in front of two different doors, Jesse knocks first, Nick answers. Nick takes Jesse inside and gives him some advice ("Swim"). The Diva knocks on the door hoping to find her parents, she resumes her original identity, "Sara Smith". No one believes she was once The Diva and she spirals deeper into despair ("Haddonfield (15 Years Later)").Without Jesse to write for her, Nina attempts an original song at her concert ("Good For You (Reprise)"). Nina headed in a downward spiral breaks things off with JB, she returns to Jesse, now clean and sober, and expresses her desire to return to being the Amanda she used to be, with him at her side ("Heart-Shaped Wreckage").
Amanda, her work now polished by her experience as Nina, auditions again for the same record company executives who, along with the rest of the world, have no idea she used to be Nina (who has vanished without trace). She performs her first concert as herself and it is a moderate success. As she launches into her final song, Sara Smith arrives and shoots her ("Broadway, Here I Come! (Reprise)"). Sara Smith jumps on stage trying to promote her new song. Jesse holds Amanda in his arms, he tries to help her but it too late, Jesse sings his goodbyes to Amanda as she dies on stage ("The Love I Meant To Say"). The internet goes crazy over the news of The Diva's arrest, her mediocre single rises to the top, becoming bigger than she ever was. Jesse depressed, at the pier writes in his notebook ("Rewrite This Story (Reprise)"). The musical closes with Jesse once again bidding Amanda goodbye while The Diva is returned to her former glory despite the possibility that the next "Amanda" is out there ready to challenge her supremacy ("The Goodbye Song").
Principal roles and casts of major productions of stage productions of Hit List
|Character||Description||Fictitious Fringe Cast||Fictitious Workshop Cast||Fictitious Broadway Cast||Original Concert Cast|
|Jesse||The male lead of Hit List. A recovering addict, Jesse gets roped into writing music for Amanda's alter-ego Nina Hope and this leads him to start abusing drugs again.||Jimmy Collins (Jeremy Jordan)||Jimmy Collins (Jeremy Jordan)||Jimmy Collins (Jeremy Jordan)||Jeremy Jordan|
|The female lead of Hit List. A "poor little rich girl", who dreams of fame and ruthlessly fights to become the biggest pop-star since The Diva||Audra |
(Final performance Karen Cartwright Katharine McPhee)
|Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee)||Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee)||Carrie Manolakos|
|The villainess of Hit List. Currently the world's biggest pop-star. She quickly loses her mind when she loses her fame and seeks her revenge against all those she holds responsible for her downfall.||Ana Vargas (Krysta Rodriguez)||Ana Vargas (Krysta Rodriguez)||Ana Vargas (Krysta Rodriguez)|
Daisy Parker (Mara Davi)
|Nick||A dedicated writer. Jesse's devoted and helpful best friend.||N/A||N/A||N/A||Andy Mientus|
|JB Planko||The ruthless and sleazy top Hollywood talent manager to the biggest stars in the world. Among those he represents are The Diva, and Nina Hope.||N/A||N/A||Sam Strickland (Leslie Odom Jr.)||Eric William Morris|
Musical Numbers (2013 Concert Version)
Karen Cartwright overhears Jimmy Collins performing "Broadway Here I Come" and calls director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) to listen. She offers to introduce Jimmy and his writing partner, Kyle Bishop, to Derek. Jimmy initially refuses but at Kyle's urging he relents. The pair pitches the musical, about a poor boy with songwriting talent who falls for a rich girl who steals his songs. Derek agrees to help shape the musical, to be called Hit List.
At Derek's suggestion, Jimmy and Kyle put together a workshop production of Hit List for the New York Fringe Festival. They do a read-through for friends, which is a disaster because of Kyle's weak book. They press on with the Fringe presentation but Karen's commitment to Bombshell prevents her from appearing. The first staging is poorly received but Karen clandestinely appears in the second staging, which is applauded. With the success Derek sees the potential and attaches himself to the show as director.
Following a successful audition, Manhattan Theatre Workshop director Scott Nichols (Jesse L. Martin) offers to stage Hit List on his venue's "underground" stage. Karen withdraws from the role of Marilyn Monroe in Bombshell and joins the cast of Hit List as Amanda/Nina. After an impromptu audition in a bar, Ana secures the role of The Diva. With the book still in trouble, Scott and Derek enlist Julia Houston (Debra Messing) to serve as dramaturg for Hit List.
Hit List opens on the main stage at the Manhattan Theatre Project to excellent reviews. Broadway producer Jerry Rand (Michael Cristofer) commits to transferring it to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway. Jimmy's volatile attitude gets him fired from the production.
The night before Hit List is slated to open Off-Broadway, Kyle is struck by a car and killed. Grief-stricken, the company decides to open anyway, performing a concert version of the show as a tribute. Moments after the show begins, Jimmy arrives and re-assumes the role of Jesse, performing "The Love I Meant to Say". The company then launches into the fully staged show.
With Hit List running on Broadway, a member of the company named Daisy Parker (Mara Davi) blackmails Derek with threats of a sexual harassment lawsuit unless he gives her the role of The Diva. To avoid scandal, Derek capitulates, leading Ana to threaten legal action.
Hit List is nominated for 13 Tony Awards, facing off against rival show Bombshell (nominated in 12 categories). Hit List wins seven awards, including a posthumous Best Book Tony for Kyle, but loses Best Musical to Bombshell. Karen loses Best Actress to Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) in the role of Marilyn.
Critics noted the similarities between Hit List and Kyle Bishop and the musical Rent and its creator, Jonathan Larson. Like Hit List, Rent premiered in a workshop setting and transferred (although Rent went first to an Off-Broadway venue before going to Broadway). The morning before the show's Off-Broadway premiere, Larson died suddenly but the cast opened the show as scheduled. Like Kyle Bishop, Larson posthumously won the Tony Award for Best Book for a Musical (also Best Score). These parallels were intentional.
Two recurring cast members of Smash, Jesse L. Martin and Daphne Rubin-Vega, were also in the original cast of Rent. Joshua Safran, who was associated with Rent through his ex-boyfriend Anthony Rapp, consulted with both actors to be sure they felt that the story was appropriate and not exploitative. "If Daphne or Jesse had said, 'We feel like this story is in poor taste,' or, 'We don’t think you should do this story,' we’d [have pulled] the plug on it ... Also, because I know them from back in the day — I lived with them ... I think they also felt like I had a connection to that history, and what I was doing was writing my life, in a way."
Andy Mientus has performed in Rent and was also aware of the parallels between his character and Larson. He was nervous about playing the parallels because of his connection to the show but hoped that it mirrored Larson's "enthusiasm and his light and positivity in a way that [made] that parallel something that’s a tribute and not exploitative. It’s about this kid who loves this art form more than anything, and has worked so hard and struggled so much to get the show to where it is, and then can’t be there to see it through. Hopefully that’s the story that we’re telling."
Times Square Chronicles described Hit List as "a show for anyone whose dreams are on the edge". Calling the show's sound "great" and its cast "energetic and vocal", the site declared that Hit List should come to Broadway or at least Off-Broadway but that the book should have explored a theme that its fictional writers proposed when pitching the show in Smash, that the songs be an actual "hit list" for people who had wronged the character Jesse.
Jeff Lunden for NPR concurred in part and dissented to an extent. Calling the concert "energetic", the cast "superb" and the music "genuinely impressive", he nonetheless expressed some doubt whether the show itself could be a hit. He would, however, buy a cast recording.
The New York Post declared Hit List to be "exhilarating" and the "hottest new musical in town". Citing the "workable book" as a "happy surprise", the Post praised the "energized" cast, singling out Jordan for special commendation, calling him "relaxed, charming and funny". Hit List, the Post concluded, may prove to be Smash's legacy.
No plans to continue Hit List have been announced. The property is under the control of NBC.
- ^ abSmash Fans, Rejoice! Hit List to Debut at 54 Below, Starring Jeremy Jordan, Krysta Rodriguez & Andy Mientus
- ^ abcdAn Encore for the ‘Smash’ That Wasn’t
- ^ abcdefWhen 'Hit List' Got Another Shot At An Audience
- ^ abThe Unspoken Full Plot for Smash's ‘Hit List’ Musical Is Revealed
- ^ abHow “Hit List” Became A Real-Life Musical
- ^ ab54 Below Adds Dec. 8 Hit List Concert, Based on Fictional "Smash" Musical
- ^Jeremy Jordan, Krysta Rodriguez, Andy Mientus, Carrie Manolakos Bring "Smash" Musical Hit List to Life Dec. 8-9 at 54 BelowArchived 2013-12-12 at the Wayback Machine
- ^Ten things you missed when a New York theater put on 'Hit List' -- a musical from 'Smash'
- ^Jeremy Jordan, Krysta Rodriguez, Andy Mientus, Carrie Manolakos Prove to Be a "Smash" in 54 Below's Hit List Concert
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 1, "On Broadway"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 2, "The Fallout"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 3, "The Dramaturg"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 5, "The Read-Through"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 6, "The Fringe"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 7, "Musical Chairs"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 9. "The Parents"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 10, "The Surprise Party"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 13, "The Producers"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 14, "The Phenomenon"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 15, "The Transfer",
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 16, "The Nominations"
- ^Smash Season 2 episode 17, "The Tonys"
- ^Born To Die: Why "Smash" Killed Off A Fan Favorite Character
- ^Smash's Andy Mientus Talks Kyle's [Spoiler], Hit List's Rent Parallels and Jimmy's Redemption
- ^"54 Below Presents a Smash: Hit List or The Price of Fame". Archived from the original on 2013-12-13. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
- ^‘Smash’ spawn ‘Hit List’ deserves to live on
List smash hit
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