Friday, March 8, 2013

Smashed, March 8, 2013

The Read-Through
by Stuart Munro

Hello friends! It’s time once again to pour yourself a glass and join me as we experience the newest episode of Smash.

A lot happens this week, but thankfully (unlike last week) we’re only dealing with our two main plots: Bombshell and Hit List, with a little bit of Liaisons on the side (but more on that below). Last week’s foray into too many plots seems to have been just a sojourn, and this week’s episode had that focused feel that the first few did. I might almost argue that they’re finding a balance between the serious and the comic here. It’s not brilliant TV, but at least it’s not bad anymore.

This seems so obvious that I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t see it coming.

Karen and Derek are teaming up to help Jimmy and Kyle get a version of Hit List ready for a winter F ring festival in NYC in two weeks. At the boys’ place, Karen is a little shocked to find that Jimmy has another girl over. Nonetheless, she gathers a group of her friends to come over and read through the first act of the fledgling show. It turns out that Jimmy’s music is brilliant, but that Kyle’s script is . . . not. So. In order to be ready for Fringe, they opt to cut the dialogue and turn Hit List into a rock opera. This seems so obvious that I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t see it coming.

On the other side of town, Ivy is working on the Broadway revival of Liaisons, a fictitious musical version of Les Liaisons dangereuses. Its movie-star lead, Terry Falls (played by Sean Hayes), has arrived a week after everyone else, but promises to “integrate smoothly,” despite not knowing his (stage) right from his left. Where everyone else is in a drama, Terry appears to be in a sex farce, and when he tries to convince the rest of the cast to funny-it-up, Ivy shames him into taking it more seriously by playing a scene legit (and, might I add, brilliantly. Dear Megan Hilty. Please always be this good in everything you do). This backfires, however, when Terry decides to rise to the challenge and connect with his “humanity” by going off all his anti-depressants. Oh dear. If they’re not careful here, the creators of Smash could easily lose that delicate balance they seem to be finding.

It’s too good. It’ll win awards, but fail to get an audience.

Meanwhile, over at the Belasco Theatre, Tom is onstage imagining a new number for the opening of Act II. The transition is a tad clumsy (and it’s clearly just an excuse for a performance), but the tune is fun, if not especially clever. Julia and dramaturg Peter arrive with their new draft which is, apparently, amazing, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the two are getting on just a little too well. Everyone heads over to new-producer Jerry’s office for the read through of the script. It just so happens that the new Bombshell is in fact brilliant. So brilliant that Jerry compares it to Follies, Ragtime, and Sunday in the Park with George. But therein lies the problem. It’s too good. It’ll win awards, but fail to get an audience. So he plans to use the workshop version from seven months ago, given to him by Tom (!). So a decision has to be made. Do they use the older, flashier Marilyn, or the newer, layered one? The deciding vote belongs to Eileen, despite the fact that she’s legally required not to be dealing with the show at all. And what does she decide . . ?

Looks like we won’t find out until next week!

In a lot of ways I appreciate and hate the argument that a serious musical can’t succeed on Broadway. The best ones, like those mentioned above, along with Billy Elliot and Parade tend to have sadly short lives (A Chorus Line is a good exception to the rule), while shows like CATS and Phantom run forever and ever. And yet I’m torn. I’m not sure which version of Bombshell I want to see staged. Part of me hopes they really do use the newer, more sophisticated version. But another part of me wants to see this fake show run on its equally fake Broadway for years and years, and sadly I know that the less complex version is probably what will make that happen. Sometimes for-profit theatre makes me sad.

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