Arts column: The neon lights aren’t quite so bright on Broadway

I’M YET to see a TV drama that comes anywhere near to accurately depicting my experience of working in journalism so it’s perhaps a little unfair to base my opinions of life behind the scenes of a Broadway show on the NBC series Smash.

Who I am to say whether it’s entirely realist to burst spontaneously into song in a bowling alley like a scene from Grease 2, be forced to whisper-sing Happy Birthday Mr President to a famous director in his penthouse apartment or get accidentally hooked on sleeping pills as the result of a freak combination of a sore throat and a limelight-scrobbling mother.

When it comes to switching on the next episode of Smash, I actually don’t care.

I want to believe that it’s possible for Debra Messing to write the whole book of a musical on an A4 notepad with a perfectly sharpened HB pencil, while looking both effortlessly chic and Einstein intelligent in her tortoiseshell reading glasses and white shirt.

I want to believe the world is full of scrupulous theatre producers like Anjelica Huston, who are able to balance a strong moral conscience with savvy business acumen while still finding time to fall for a bartender with a hidden talent for central heating repair and chuck a few cocktails in her nasty ex-husband’s face.

I want to rig a live orchestra to my bedroom curtains so the action of drawing them each morning is accompanied by the sound of the band tuning up before a show – just like Smash’s opening credits.

And I’d swap my big stack of theatre programmes to be able to fast forward the dull better-stick-in-a- pop-song-to-keep-younger- audiences-happy bits of real life so that it becomes one long stream of exciting choreography, big ballads and snappy dialogue.

If, in reality, behind the scenes at Broadway isn’t the way it’s depicted in Smash then frankly it’s been invented wrong.

Countering the misconceptions of the glamorous lives Broadway actors lead is the book Making it on Broadway by David Wienir and Jodie Langel, which, since it came out in 2004, has been shocking wannabe musical theatre stars into signing up for engineering courses.

Told through the voices of real life Broadway performers, including Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander, it reveals the cockroaches, crises and chicanery behind their supposedly charmed existence.

Despite what it says in the song, it turns out that the neon lights aren’t quite so bright on Broadway – it’s much more dramatic than that.

Authentic Broadway life is not complete without money worries, stalkers, co-stars with wandering hands, embarrassing bar mitzvah performances, disappointed family members, broken marriages and broken Tony awards.

And even if you do eventually make it into a top-billed role – after years of sleeping on a friend’s lice-ridden sofa, walking miles home because you have no subway money and dodging obsessive fans – there’s no guarantee you’ll ever get another one.

It seems that even with handsome-but-selfish director Derek and needy prima donna Ivy, the world of Smash is a fluffy paradise compared to the back-stabbing, soul destroying reality of Broadway backstage.

Now that would make a good musical.

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