Meet the Songwriters Bringing ‘Smash’ to Broadway

Following reports that TV’s Smash is coming to Broadway in 2024, songwriting team Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman have discussed the upcoming project with Billboard, as well as their recent success with Some Like It Hot: The Musical.

“It’s safe to say the news that Smash is coming to Broadway shook the internet. Can you talk about the path to the big announcement?

Scott Wittman: Well, it’s been in the works for awhile. About a year and a half ago, we did a reading with a script from Rick Elice and Bob Martin, who have written many shows, including The Drowsy Chaperone and Jersey Boys.

Marc Shaiman: They’re great writers who came to the producers of Smash and said they’d love to take a crack at writing a script. For a few years before that, everyone was trying to create a musical of Bombshell, the actual Marilyn Monroe musical we were writing [within] the show, and the original plan was at the end of the season to have a musical we’d produce on Broadway. So it actually was always the idea to bring a show to Broadway.

But what’s different here is that it no longer became feasible to do a version of Bombshell, because the songs we wrote were always trying to speak to what the characters on Smash, the TV show, were going through. We’d find moments from Marilyn Monroe’s life that mirrored what was happening on Smash, so all of these songs had double meanings, and the lyrics were always skewed. Also, if any one woman tried to sing all of the songs we wrote for Marilyn in Bombshell — which were always these big, 11 o’clock showstoppers — they’d die by the end of the performance. Finally our producers said, ‘Let’s listen to what Rick and Bob would want to pitch us.’

Wittman: We had a great reading about a year ago. Steven Spielberg came and said, ‘This is fantastic, let’s do it.’ So that’s how it happened.

So this is a show about putting on a musical. A musical version of the TV show.

Wittman: It’s like Noises Off. You’re doing a musical but everything goes totally wrong.

Shaiman: What it says on the title page is A Comedy About a Musical. We don’t know if they’ll actually call it a play or a musical. So it’s like the TV show Smash — only, we hope, funnier.

Wittman: It’s very funny. There were very funny people in the reading; who knows if they’ll be in the show.

I guess the next logical step then is to make a movie version of the stage musical inspired by the TV show?

Shaiman: [Laughs.] It’s all so confusing. Then you throw in Some Like It Hot, and it’s really bizarre. It’s a multiverse.

It must be creatively energizing for you guys to look at something from so many different angles.

Wittman: It’s great fun. Even during the read-through, we all laughed a lot and even Steven Spielberg went nuts. He actually also came to Some Like It Hot a couple weeks ago.

Shaiman: [Laughs.] He’s our biggest fan.

Does he give creative notes?

Wittman: Yes, very much! What makes him so great is that he’s like an audience member. He watches things like an audience, with a keen eye.

Can we expect Smash cast members from the TV show in the stage version?

Wittman: Some of them helped out at the reading, but it’s still a ways off. It wouldn’t actually go until maybe around this time next year.

Shaiman: The fact that it’s not exactly the TV show means it’s not exactly the characters from the TV show. So it doesn’t necessarily make sense for people on the TV show to play them. But one never knows.

Will there be songs from the show or will there be original songs?

Wittman: It’ll be songs from Bombshell, along with some more we’ll write.

The announcement had fortuitous timing, coming when you have Some Like It Hot — the musical version of the classic movie — on Broadway. When were the seeds planted for that particular project?

Wittman: It’s a funny, meta world. We had done Smash and within that is the musical about Marilyn Monroe. And we even wrote a Some Like It Hot number for Marilyn in that musical. But the producers of the TV show, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, had gotten the rights to the movie and they were thinking of doing the version of it … So we’ve been working on it for six years, off and on.

It’s a musical that couldn’t have come at a better time, especially with the current bans on drag and discourse around it. It seems like a show that could open people’s eyes to drag in general.

Wittman: It’s always good when a show can incite discussion … That’s what made it more intriguing to do. There already had been [the original Some Like It Hot-inspired musical] Sugar, so there was no reason to do another movie-to-stage version of that. So it really had to be something new … Right from the very beginning we thought that, along with our Sugar being played by a Black actress [Adrianna Hicks]. Those are two things that made us say yes.

I know the song ‘Let’s Be Bad’ uniquely made the jump from Smash to Some Like It Hot. What’s the story behind that?

Shaiman: Maybe 20 percent at most of the lyrics are from Smash; for the most part it’s newly written lyrics for a song that now takes on a joyous and fun experience. It certainly works. We actually asked everyone working on these shows, from Smash and now the Broadway show, if we could use it. We didn’t know if they were going to say, ‘No, you can’t use that song, we’re gonna have it on our own show.’ But luckily, everyone said, ‘Yeah, my God. That would be perfect.’ We signed off by saying if the worst thing that happens is that there are two musicals at once with this song in it, then that’s a fantastic conversation piece.”