Smash Season 1 Episode 2 recap

Welcome to the Smash review, slightly feverish edition. I say that because I am, and I hope you’ll excuse any typos, but also that’s how this week’s episode felt.  A little bit manic, which isn’t surprising, given the break-neck speed of the show.

So the battle between the good little corn-fed virgin (I know, I know.  But that’s the equivalent of where they’re going here) and the sassy blonde tramp is kind of a straw man situation, since everyone agrees that Ivy needs to have the role. And you know what?  Even though I think they’re doing a good job of showing me that Karen can perform when everyone has held her hand six times, I didn’t want her to get the part.  She’s all schlumpy-sad leaning over in her folding chair before her audition.  Yes, it can look like the deck is stacked for Ivy what with the people she knows and the banging the director and whatnot, but at least she sits up straight and is fighting for the role.  Karen just seemed to want to get it through winsomeness – and even that was pretty toned down.

So yes, although Ivy sleeping with Derek was a cliché and not a self-aware one, even, I still think she was the one for the part. I could roll my eyes about how,  in the entire city of Manhattan, there are only two actresses?  One greener than green and one who’s been around the block…but the show doesn’t want me to think about that, so I guess I’m not.  (This is not helped by the fact that I just watched Every Little Step, the great documentary about casting the A Chorus Line revivial, and that movie is constantly interrupted by title cards that say “4 months later” or “8 months later”. It took a LONG time.)

So now we have Ivy in the role of Marilyn and Karen is just at home with her understanding boyfriend who might not understand quite so much. I have to say, I thought the fact that she didn’t text was the most realistic part of the show, if somewhat underplayed. It is something you’d do if you were intimidated by the director, and I would have liked to see her try a little more and then give up.   

Nonetheless, I maintain from last week that Dev is not merely a sweetheart.  He’s going to crack, sooner or later, when he realizes he’s ultimately not going to be able to become the sitting-around-waiting “Broadway husband” (is this a term?) who has to be able to deal with the constant confusion and lack of regularity that is a stage schedule.

Maybe he should call Julia’s husband, who, to me, is about as useless and boring as they come. Not because he didn’t want to adopt a baby, which, given what they learned, seemed pretty rational to me, but because, if I understand correctly, he does…nothing? He wants to go back and teach but…why hasn’t he been doing so all this time? This whole story seems so contrived that if they had an 8 year old son, rather than 18, I could understand it all, including fits pitched by the son who wants his sister to come home. It’s all a bit odd, and since Messing is playing a character based on the writer/creator, I wonder if there’s enough distance there.

I also wonder that because Julia seems to spend all her time sitting in chairs agreeing with people. Other than pitching an unconventional place for a song,  she hasn’t done much. It’s Tom who has conflict with a director, stumps for Ivy, has an assistant who is quickly becoming the most annoying person on TV.  

Yes, I know Julia’s adopting a baby. But that doesn’t tell me anything about why she’s good with her job, why she and Tom are such a pair. Every time they say the book’s not finished, I get a headache…

I also get a headache via Eileen’s storylines. I’ve always found Anjelica Huston somewhat standoffish but I don’t find that here; in fact, I’m a little worried she’s too vulnerable. Divorces are bad and I’m sure the business is brutal, but I worry she doesn’t have the mettle to bring the show straight to Broadway as she says she does.  I’m not sure I want to see her barking down the phone all the time, but the simplicity of “we’ll just bring the show to Broadway” seemed a little easy to me.

And that’s my feeling overall here: I’m waiting for these people to get more complicated.  They have a show and a star within two episodes, and I’m sure they’re about to have a brown-haired understudy, but I need things to get a little messier if I’m going to be invested all the way to opening night.

Attached - Katharine McPhee at The Today Show yesterday.