What's more fun than watching "Smash," NBC's behind-the-scenes drama about the making of a Broadway musical?
Reading Sharon Wheatley's take on it the next day.
Consider Ms. Wheatley -- a Broadway veteran and author of the memoir "'Til the Fat Girl Sings" -- your guide to "Smash's" vision of the Great White Way. A friend of creator and former showrunner Theresa Rebeck, she began her "Smash: Fact or Fiction?" blog at www.SharonWheatley.com last season.
The "Smash" blog is just one aspect of her inside baseball view on Broadway, but it's the most popular. Season 2 of the NBC series debuted Tuesday, so fans were waiting this morning.
Ms. Wheatley has a sharp sense of humor and an insider's eye. Aiding her in the history department is her husband, Rob Meffe, a graduate of Greensburg Central Catholic and the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Meffe's parents, Marlene and Domenic, still live in Greensburg. He met Ms. Wheatley at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Mr. Meffe is a professional music director who has done nine Broadway shows, and he also plays piano part time for "Newsies," "Evita" and "Phantom of the Opera." At Pace University, Mr. Meffe, 44, teaches musical theater history.
Ms. Wheatley is an author and continues to be active in theater, plus they have two daughters. With such busy schedules, it isn't easy sitting down to blog about "Smash."
"I'll give you three letters: D-V-R," Mr. Meffe said, laughing. "One of us is always working [on broadcast] night. We'll start watching around 11 or so, and Sharon's kind of a night owl anyway."
Ms. Wheatley said she tries to keep the tone funny and light by not taking herself too seriously.
"There are some things I don't know, but I've been in the business for so long, if I don't know the answer to something, I can pretty much post it to my Facebook wall and I'll have 10 answers within 10 minutes."
Fans of "Smash" can read her first Season 2 post at http://www.sharonwheatley.com/2013/02/06/smash-fact-or-fiction-season-two-episodes-one-and-two-on-broadway-and-the-fallout/.
As an industry insider, Ms. Wheatley watched the pilot episode last year. "I thought, 'Oh, I'll just write one [blog post].' It sort of blew up. It immediately went viral and got on all the TV blogs, and it was really fun."
The number of hits jumped each week, and soon she was committed to posting by 6:30 the next morning. She and Mr. Meffe might consider up to 20 "Fact or Fiction?" questions as the show unfolds, but the number of points made varies.
Ms. Wheatley and Mr. Meffe are big fans of the show and understand that some diversions from reality make for better stories. Plus, it's cool to see some of the inside acknowledgements; real-life casting head Bernie Telsey's office is used as a set in one episode, for example, and some of their friends are in small roles or extras in the series.
But perhaps the biggest "Fiction" example was a scene in Season 1 where Ivy, played by Carnegie Mellon University grad Megan Hilty, got hopped up on medication and bolted from the theater in the middle of a performance.
Dressed as an angel, she ran into Times Square. Can this actually happen? No, no, an emphatic, no. No one leaves a theater in costume.
"As my friend said in her [Facebook] status update while watching the show, 'And every wardrobe supervisor in the city just screamed in horror,' " Ms. Wheatley said.
"We groaned at that point," Mr. Meffe said. "It's great storytelling. In reality, that wouldn't happen. You'd be arrested by the wardrobe police."
They're not nitpicking, just having fun. But the blog is also insider-gossipy, and that's when things get really interesting.
In a post explaining how it's next to impossible to get blackballed from working on Broadway, Ms. Wheatley wisely did not name names for this anecdote:
"There was an actor who was discovered to be stealing from fellow cast mates. This person was not fired but was sent to rehab, and then went on to another Broadway show where he/she was then arrested for the crimes at the previous theater. Was this person fired from the second show [the one where he/she was arrested]? No. This person had a job up until the show closed. Will this person be allowed to work in another show? Yup. Will this person's cast mates lock up their belongings? I hope so. No, what I really hope is that the rehab went well. But you get my point."
Ms. Wheatley is still writing, acting on stage and auditioning. She also shot her first feature film last fall, "Gods Behaving Badly." Mr. Meffe is involved in a workshop at Pace with artist-in-residence Adam Guettel, the Tony Award-winning composer of "The Light in the Piazza," and his wife also teaches at a professional performing arts high school in New York City.
Little wonder the "Smash" blog is so informative.
"Because at the end of the day, more than anything else, it's education," she said. "It's theater education. It doesn't look like it because we sort of wrapped it up in a sexier package, but that's what it is."
Maria Sciullo: email@example.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published February 6, 2013 5:00 AM