Thursday, March 28, 2013

Smashed, March 28, 2013

The Bells & Whistles
by Stuart Munro

Hello friends! The school year is almost over, and what better way to celebrate this fact than by grabbing a glass and joining me for this week’s episode of Smash, which for the first time this season, saw an increase in its ratings!

Hit List rehearsals have (miraculously) begun, and Jimmy and Derek are not exactly seeing eye to eye – Jimmy is upset with some of the women being considered for the role of The Diva (“Lea Michele?!”), and with Derek’s idea to fill the stage with LED screens. Derek gets a talking-to from Scott, the Artistic Director, about working with writers, and Jimmy gets a similar lesson from Karen. Jimmy, sadly, doesn’t seem to understand how the collaborative process works, and Derek doesn’t really seem to get what the show’s about. So. Problems. Derek’s LED screens aren’t exactly working the way he’d hoped, and Karen and Jimmy both think that they’re unnecessary. Derek eventually comes around and finds out from Jimmy what the show’s really about – two people falling in love, and what gets in the way of that. The result is one of the most creative numbers I’ve seen in a long time. No sets, no props, no “bells & whistles.” Just bodies and words coming together to tell a story in a way that couldn’t be done by either element alone. It’s really kind of astounding, and for the first time all series, I see the beginnings of a show I’d actually like to see on stage.

She, fifteen years too late, apologizes, and Scott tries to bridge some of the gap by giving his condolences for her recently ended marriage.

Meanwhile, Karen is pushing for her roommate, Ana, to audition for the Diva, but Derek doesn’t seem that interested. So Ana decides to “audition” while the whole company is at a seedy bar and, surprise surprise, gets the part (even if her audition wasn’t that awesome). Scott and Julia, it seems, have a painful history together that involved him getting booted from a directing gig at Lincoln Center, and it’s all Julia’s fault. She, fifteen years too late, apologizes, and Scott tries to bridge some of the gap by giving his condolences for her recently ended marriage.

Ivy’s back with Bombshell and EVERYONE is super happy about it. Seriously. The number of goofy grins on people’s faces as she sang “Let me be your star” was insane. Tom is trying (too hard?) to be everything Derek wasn’t, and so he invites the company over to his place tonight to share their thoughts about the show – this includes offering a role (that doesn’t exist) to his ex, Sam, who’s in town on break from tour. This can only go well, right? Tom and Sam start to reconnect a bit at the party as Sam pulls out one of Tom’s old, unused songs to sing (with accompanying back-up choreography. I’m so glad Bobby’s back around!) and Tom finds a way to get Sam back into the show, to Julia’s chagrin. Bombshell is having some trouble, publicity-wise. A lack of a star actor and star director means the press is just focusing on what a “hot mess” it is. Back at rehearsal, Tom has changed the rehearsal schedule without telling Eileen, who has managed to get a reporter from the New York Times in to see Ivy, and Tom gets a quick, rough lesson about playing by the book. 

So that should be fun.

Tom opts to get some directing advice from Derek (“How do you sleep at night? I’m seriously asking.”) before giving Sam the hard news that there’s no role for him in the show. Sam (who’s left his job with The Book of Mormon despite not having a new contract?!) equates this with Tom not being ready to handle a relationship which . . . doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Tom’s new hard-assed approach spills over to the rest of the company, and Julia, which makes for a more believable director/ensemble relationship. But he also agrees to cast Ivy’s mother to play Marilyn’s mother without consulting Ivy first. So that should be fun.

Oh. And the episode ends with Jimmy coming up to Karen’s apartment and taking her in a way that I know I’ll be thinking about for days to come. Ah-hem.

A lot about this week worked really well and the whole episode seemed, dare I say it, somewhat realistic? Sure, the ultra-compressed timelines for these shows getting produced still gets to me, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief there. So we’ll see. I fully expect (unless the ratings continue to climb – I’m not holding my breath) that this is Smash’s final season, which makes me just a little bit sad. But the focus that it was sorely missing in season one is still there. With a little luck, Smash can end on a high note.

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