Our industry is in the spotlight more than ever with NBC’s hit series SMASH! Each week, Ryann Ferguson takes us through what happened in the most recent episode. Be careful though! This article does contain spoilers.
It’s the day of/ the day before the show, ya’ll, and it’s hot in here! It is literally hot. The heater won’t turn off in the rehearsal studio and no one can fix the system. Unions are dragging their feet. This combination caused me to go into a mild form of Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome recalling two of the worst moments in my theatrical life: when the AC was out– in August– on opening night of my show, and the twenty day Local One strike of 2007. Yikes.
That’s not all. The folks at SMASH are gonna ride this ‘it’s hot’ metaphor all the way to the end. There’s a hot affair that cannot contain itself even in rehearsals with our writer Julia, and leading man Michael Swift. And while they make out in the hallway, not only does voice of sanity writing partner Tom bust in, but if there’s something to be snooped, snooping assistant Ellis is never far away. He immediately runs to tell Eileen the news and her reaction is perfect. “Not that this information isn’t useful, but if you ever bring up information like that again you will never work on this show or in this town ever again.” Boom. I’m glad someone with any credibility took a stand against Ellis.
Meanwhile, Karen is late to rehearsal because she’s meeting with a famed record producer (or his minion) to do another soulless demo song. The scene even featured that shot so frequently employed when showing a performer where the person watching smiles to themselves (or, if there are others present, at each other) in silent recognition of the awesomeness that is taking place. While I disagree with the record dude, this is his moment for that while watching Karen. So I think it’s pretty evident where this is going to go now.
In the endless tedium that is the waiting game for a musical to go anywhere, Little Miss Karen is going to establish some kind of recording career, making her more of a star option than the frequently floundering Ivy. Because don’t you think for one minute that the drugs cocktail Ivy is on has warded off whatever bad juju is surrounding her. This episode, they pull out the big guns: Bernadette Peters. Singing Bernadette Peters. (Don’t Make Me Sing!) (Ps- BLESS Wesley Taylor: “Sing Something!”) So of course, that throws Ivy off her game even more. Mom’s made her late. Mom’s a Broadway Legend. Ivy will never live up to Mom. Mom inadvertently competes/pulls focus. You get it.
Back to that scandalous affair. Michael Swift’s wife and get just happened to be in the neighborhood, so they bust into rehearsal and the kid runs across the scene. Dude, just because you’re in the neighborhood, doesn’t mean you should bust into rehearsal without knocking get a grip. Michelle Federer should know better. (Wait, is Michael Swift’s wife supposed to be in the biz too?) Anyhow, in my mind she’s just Michelle Federer, since… do we know her name? And Michelle would know better. Unprofessional.
And speaking of unprofessional, almost everything about Julia. Oh, what? The sight of the man’s wife and kid a little too close to home for you? You have to leave the room? You have to GO HOME? The day before the show? You guys, if I ever let a personal issue like that wig me out from showing up to my own show, it’s time to take me to the vet and put me down. Thanks.
You guys didn’t believe Leo when he said he wasn’t actually smoking the pot that time two episodes ago when he got busted, right? Yeah, me neither. So of course, when Julia gets home, Leo’s toking up in his room. He and Julia confront each other about their respective bad behavior and Leo says the first intelligent thing he’s said the entire show: “I think it sucks… and I think you suck.” Amen, Leo. Stop cheating on Brian d’Arcy James.
Eileen’s still hanging out at the Bushwhack, but it turns out her flirting with that bartender is going to pay off. He knows a guy. Who can fix the building. And make it not hot. Eileen’s new bf knows the deal.
Who does not know the deal is Tom’s lawyer bf, who shows up all awkward and treats the cast like secretaries. Eventually, he sits down and enjoys the sweltering room with a small, select group of producers and agents. It’s an awkward atmosphere. I’d have had background music. Puts people at ease. Especially when they’re dying of heatstroke. Kills the energy in the room.
They run through the show and there are some missteps from Ivy and a big old fall from Karen! I laughed out loud when she fell off the back of the bleachers! I even thought for a moment they were going to send her a concussed dream world where she actually did the rest of the part herself. But no. (Come on, can you blame me? They would SO do that on this show. They basically already have.)
But the biggest question mark for me came with Michael Swift/Joe DiMaggio’s big number about when Marilyn’s skirt blows up while standing over the subway grate, “Lexington & 52nd Street.” Here are my two big questions re: that song. 1. Is that really the most interesting idea we could come up with for this song? The spot in NYC where it happened? and 2. THAT’s how you END the show??? That’s the FINALE?? Because that’s what it looked like. To which I say, ARE YOU INSANE?
I was still recovering from my shock at this when Ivy and her mother have a big ole’ confrontation right in front of Derek. Which was awkward. But not as awkward as the next scene, in Eileen’s office for the post-mortem on the show. (Did it all feel anticlimactic to you the way it was for me?) Julia’s pouting and wearing big sunglasses inside– sigh. And Derek is reading the nasty chat board commentary. (Just say no, Derek.)
My favorite was when Eileen lists Joe Mahota’s clients, she says “Sutton Foster” and Christian Borle says, “STOP!” Touche’.
But if our Marilyn isn’t the problem, WHO IS? Tom throws out… Michael. Derek disagrees. Julia weighs in. Let’s fire Michael Swift. And Eileen agrees. And I, watching from home, agree. Somehow, I wonder if, like Ellis’s firing, this one will not stick. Tune in next time, boys and girls.
Miss last week’s SMASH cap? Read it here!
Ryann Ferguson is a London & NYC based writer/producer. She runs a daily Arts & Travel blog, Fergie & Fife. See more from her here!