Based on Michael Richie’s 1975 film of the same name (screenplay by Jerry Belson), Smile follows the backstage drama and onstage dramatics of a Santa Rosa, California Young American Miss Pageant.
Howard in rehearsal
Howard working with one of his lead Smile actresses, Jodi Benson
The Lunt-Fontanne theater during previews of Smile. November, 1986
US Premiere: 1986
Touching and satiric, the story follows roommates Doria and Robin as they vie for the crown and pageant director Brenda DiCarlo as she relives her youth and plots her future, oblivious of the price demanded of all those who would have it all:
She’s a typical high school senior
She is thoughtful and neat and clean
She is caring and kind
She reads books to the blind
She’s no older than seventeen.
Doria’s dreams are built on a fantasy of fairy tale endings and pageant queens who truly are royalty:
I will live in Disneyland
Make my home in Disneyland.
Maybe it’s all fake
That’s a chance I’ll take
It’s perfectly ok.
Someone give me Disneyland
Take me there to Disneyland
And when I get to Disneyland
Robin has her doubts – about herself, about pageants and about why she is here, in Santa Rosa, trying to become California’s Young American Miss.
Mixing idealism with disillusion and casting a jaundiced eye at the world of beauty pageants with a loving eye to the world of young women starting out in life, Smile challenges while it entertains.
Disneyland, which was written well before Howard began talking with the Walt Disney Company about working for them, has become a popular audition and Youtube song.
Though Smile enjoyed only a short run, its strength as a theatrical property, with its fusion of cynicism and optimism and its many great roles for young actresses has since made the show popular with regional and amateur theater groups.
Wonderful Marvin Hamlisch melodies. Smart, clever move the story lyrics from Howard Ashman...This is the best Broadway score in years...Smile? I did. You will.
Impressively crafted lyrics."
The New York Times