The Music of Marvin Hamlisch: SMILE (Musical, 1986) — Obtain License!

Smile is a musical with music by Marvin Hamlisch and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman. It was originally produced on Broadway in 1986. The musical is based loosely on a 1975 film of the same title, from a screenplay by Jerry Belson.

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The original production opened on Broadway on November 24, 1986 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and closed on January 3, 1987 after 48 performances. It was directed by Ashman with musical staging by Mary Kyte. It received a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical as well as two Drama Desk Award nominations for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (Michael O’Gorman) and Outstanding Costume Design (William Ivy Long).

Musical "SMILE" original production (1986) Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman. Music by Marvin Hamlisch.

Musical “SMILE” original production (1986) Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman. Music by Marvin Hamlisch.

Smile chronicles the backstage troubles of the fictional 1985 California Young American Miss beauty pageant held in Santa Rosa, California. The main characters include Robin Gibson and Doria Hudson, two contestants who befriend and help each other throughout the week; Brenda DiCarlo Freelander, an ex-Young American Miss second-runner-up coordinating the pageant; and Brenda’s husband Big Bob, an RV Salesman trying to help her through the week.


Act 1 - The show opens with Dale Wilson Shears, chairman of the fictitious Young American Miss Foundation, explaining to the audience the qualities of an ideal Young American Miss. The contestants begin to enter and, throughout the course of the song, prepare for their journey to the pageant in Santa Rosa, waving goodbye as the number ends. (“Typical High School Senior”).


In Santa Rosa, pageant coordinator Brenda Dicarlo Freelander and head judge Big Bob Freelander are photographed for a Jaycee newsletter. Brenda receives a letter that Wilson Shears himself will be attending the pageant. When the girls arrive, Brenda gives them an orientation presentation of what to expect during the upcoming week (“The Very Best Week of Your Lives”). The audience learns that Brenda is a former Young American Miss herself. The story then switches over to the dorms, where two sets of roommates, Maria and Shawn and Doria and Robin, are getting ready for bed. Doria, an experienced contestant, talks about her passion for pageants with Robin while the latter writes a postcard to her mother (“Dear Mom #1″). When Robin is finished, Doria relates the memory of her first pageant, a television broadcast of the Miss Anaheim pageant in Disneyland, and sings of her dream to someday go there in person (“Disneyland”).

Jodi Benson sings “Disneyland” from the Broadway musical, “Smile”


Musical “Smile” Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Music by Marvin Hamlisch.

Musical “SMILE”

The next morning, Little Bob is caught staring at the pageant applications by his father. Oblivious to Little Bob’s less-than-wholesome interest in the girls, Big Bob praises him for taking an interest in the pageant. The girls enter and begin to learn a difficult dance routine under famed choreographer Tommy French (“Shine”). During the song, several girls break away from the dance and give short speeches to Social Clubs, the local sponsors of the event. The girls exit and Brenda vows that she will stay cool under the watchful eye of Wilson Shears and the national foundation, unlike her own Young American Miss finals eighteen years ago.

Robin, who has no experience in pageants, is worn out and wants to leave (“Dear Mom #2″). Meanwhile, Shawn has become angry over the attention Mexican-American Maria is garnering from the judges and sponsors. Shawn voices her wishes to get Maria out of the competition to Valerie, another contestant. The scene shifts to Big Bob in a meeting with the other judges. He asks them to look beyond the appearance of the girls and look into their hearts, and how nobody does this. (“Bob’s Song”). Late that night, Little Bob and his friend Freddy are seen sneaking around the building where the pageant will be held. Their plan, to sell nude photos of the girls to local kids, is revealed. The scene changes to the next morning, as the girls complain of various ailments brought on by the intense dance workouts, a lack of sleep, and the subpar food as Brenda passes out the day’s schedule (“Nerves”). Private interviews with the judges are held. Robin, who is fatherless but refuses to play for sympathy, panics and runs out of the room when asked about her family. The girls, led by Tommy, rehearse for the upcoming Preliminary Night competition. However, the rehearsal is abruptly cut short when Tommy and Brenda argue over a large ramp extending into the audience. Although featured in Tommy’s plans, the ramp made unusable many seats that had already been sold. Brenda offers to deduct the cost of the seats from Tommy’s check, which prompts him to strike the ramp. When the girls try to rehearse without it, one of the contestants falls. Seeing Brenda’s lack of sympathy, Tommy tells her to deduct the money and proceed with the ramp. Preliminary night begins and the girls compete in three categories: Vim and Vigor, Scholastic Achievement, and Creative Talent. (“Young and American”). Sandra-Kay Macaffee, Robin Gibson, and Maria Gonzales win respectively in each category.

The girls return to the dorms and Doria, who believes she has no chance of winning the competition now, begins to pass on her knowledge of pageantry. The girls begin to sing of their anxiety for the pageant the next night, later joined by Brenda and Big Bob (“Until Tomorrow Night”). Shawn catches Little Bob and Freddy taking pictures of her in the shower and, though initially angry, strikes up a deal with them. The song ends in state of high anticipation.

Visit “SMILE” at Howard Ashman’s Website!

-  In the dressing room just before the pageant Robin writes a third letter to her mother (“Dear Mom #3”). The girls, anxiously sing of the pageant as they make their final preparations and are introduced to the event’s MC, radio and television personality Ted Farley (“Opening Act 2″) The girls, preparations complete, exit. The “pageant” opens with Ted Farley greeting the audience and introducing the previous year’s winner, Joanne Marshall. The two dance briefly and the girls enter, carrying parasols (“Smile”).


As they sing, each girl gets a chance to open her parasol and perform a brief quip. When Robin’s turn comes, her parasol breaks and she runs offstage. Encouraged by Tommy French, she runs on and ad-libs a quip before the dance moves on. The girls continue their dance as a slideshow of their photographs appear on a large screen. Each girl has a chance to pose in front of her photograph, concluding with Maria. However, to Maria’s shock and horror, the photo she sees is not a posed glamour shot, but a nude photo taken in the shower. Maria runs off and the action switches backstage. As Ted continues the show, Brenda attempts to persuade Maria to go back on stage and perform. Maria refuses and leaves.

Dale Wilson-Shears confronts Brenda about the catastrophe on stage as the girls perform an (off-stage) number (“Get The Girls”). After realizing that Maria was a finalist in the competition, she crosses her name off of the list and marches onto the pageant stage. After she gives an impassioned defense of the pageant and its honor, Ted announces the four finalists: Shawn, Sandra-Kay, Robin, and Doria. The girls sing as Ted introduces the girls (“We Wish We Were You”). Backstage, Bob informs Brenda that the judges do not want to pick a winner in light of what happened. He and Brenda fight and Brenda fires Bob. The four finalists then give their final remarks before the winner is announced. (“In Our Hands”). Robin finally reveals to the judges that she is fatherless, and Big Bob finds out that his son is the one who took that picture. Ted and Joanne announce the first runner-up of the pageant, Doria Hudson. After a brief moment, the winner is announced as Sandra-Kay, Bakerfield’s Young American Miss. Ted sings as Sandra-Kay walks the runway (“There Goes The Girl”)

Wilson Shears congratulates Brenda on saving the pageant and offers her a spot on the National Committee. Brenda tries to reconcile with Bob, but to no avail. Bob, alone on stage, wonders how he can reconcile with his family. In their dorm room, Doria tries to convince Robin to join her in the Miss Sunbelt Pageant. Robin ultimately decides to go home to find her own destiny. When she sees that Robin has left without her, Doria takes a winner’s stance in her runner-up tiara and roses, once again singing of Disneyland, the only place she can feel loved and accepted (“Finale”)


Act I


   Opening — Typical High School Senior

   The Very Best Week Of Your Lives

    Dear Mom #1



    Dear Mom #2

    Bob’s Song


    The Ramp Scene

    Young And American (Preliminary Night)

    Until Tomorrow Night

Act II


    Opening — Act Two


    We Wish We Were You

    In Our Hands

    There Goes The Girl


Original Broadway characters and cast

The original Broadway cast included 16 contestants, a number of incidental roles, and the principal roles listed below:

Performer                  Character                              Description

Marsha Waterbury      Brenda DiCarlo Freelander     Pageant organizer

Jeff McCarthy             Big Bob Freelander               Brenda’s husband

Jodi Benson               Doria Hudson                        Contestant/Yuba City

Anne Marie Bobby       Robin Gibson                       Contestant/Antelope Valley

Tia Riebling                 Shawn Christianson              Contestant/La Jolla

Cheryl-Ann Rossi        Maria Gonzales                    Contestant/Salinas

Michael O’Gorman       Tommy French                     The pageant choreographer

Dick Patterson             Ted Farley                           An Emcee



Source: Team Marvin Hamlisch / The Music of Marvin Hamlisch