At the Metropolitan Museum of Art Thursday night, two women were looking for their seats when they bumped into a Broadway actor of some renown, the type who, outside of New York, probably gets a lot of “that guy from that thing.”
“I don’t think we’ve ever met, but I’m a big fan,” one woman said.
“Nice to meet you,” the actor said.
“She’s a casting director,” the second woman explained of her companion.
The actor waited a perfect beat.
“Oh, well then it’s very nice to meet you,” he said.
NBC, with a hand from Volvo and The Cinema Society, had taken up residence in the museum’s theater for an extravagant premiere of “Smash,” its big-budget prime-time musical about the making of musicals that will make its much-hyped debut on Feb. 6. In addition to cast members Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing, Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty, a strong contingent of New York-theater-world insiders had turned out for the occasion, as did a few stars, Broadway and otherwise, such as Uma Thurman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters and Bebe Neuwirth.
Though no one mistook “Smash” for cinema verité — the pilot follows a Marilyn Monroe-themed musical from bright idea to preproduction over a quick 45 minutes — it offered up a piece of inside baseball for the crowd that seemed satisfied. McPhee and Hilty’s big numbers got long applause. A running gag describing New York Post theater writer Michael Riedel as a “Napoleonic Nazi” drew very big laughs.
“It hits on all those notes,” Parker said at the after party, which was held in the Temple of Dendur. “They’ve taken a subject that not everybody always wants to talk about, which is culture and art and Broadway, and they’ve wrapped it up and been really smart and created great musical numbers.”
Lane was there to show his support for executive producers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the Tony winners who wrote original music for the show. He offered praise for his friends’ work but laughed off a question about how true the show rang to a Broadway veteran such as himself.
“Sure,” he said with a wry smile, “that’s how it happens. Your new assistant says, ‘How about Marilyn? Marilyn the musical?’ And three weeks later, you’ve got a workshop.”