Big news for Smash this week. It has been renewed for a second season. Surprising to some, but even though it wasn’t the biggest ratings hit that NBC would have liked, it was no secret that the network had invested heavily in the series so a second season seemed like a give in from the beginning. Following the renewal announcement was the news that showrunner and creator, Theresa Rebeck wasn’t returning. Rebeck is credited for the Broadway insider aspects of the show, which I love, but I will happily give up a few Michael Riedel references for some thought-out plot and character development.
For example – in this past week’s episode, we met Leigh Conroy, Ivy’s mother, played by Broadway legend Bernadette Peters. By everyone’s reaction when she waltzes into the rehearsal space, we are led to believe that Leigh, like her portrayer, is Broadway royalty. As such, wouldn’t you think Ivy would have made it by now? That someone, somewhere would have given her at least a featured role in a musical?
Peters is simply stunning. She immediately launches into “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”, and delivers on some emotional scenes with Megan Hilty. Early in the episode, it is revealed that Ivy and her mother don’t have the greatest relationship: Ivy feels outshone by her mother, and her mother just doesn’t like to see her daughter fail.
Leigh is in town because it is – finally – the Marilyn workshop! The day has arrived. But before the figurative curtain rises, another plot line must be nipped in the bud. Yes, the Julia/Michael affair is over just as quickly as it began. The catalyst is a mix between Julia realizing her son knows about it, and seeing Michael’s wife and son burst into rehearsal. Michael isn’t too pleased that Julia has backed away, but I say, good riddance. The affair had one positive contribution to the show – as Julia and Michael read lines as Marilyn and Joe, they go off script and speak to each other as real life scorned lovers. These lines are much better than anything Julia has produced for the show, so Derek inserts it into the show.
And with that out of the way, it’s time for potential producers take their seats, strip down (because the radiator is broken, a plot line whose purpose is to show a budding romance between Eileen and the bartender from her new Lower East Side dive bar) and enjoy the show.
Smash’s strongest suit have always been the performances. This episode gives us a glimpse of all the numbers we’ve seen up until now, with a new “On Lexington & 52nd Street” number for Joe DiMaggio and that newly created fight between Marilyn and Joe.
I think Ivy shines, but apparently I’m alone in that because Derek is all up in her face at intermission to tell her she’s terrible. Michael is sensational (Derek’s word) and Karen … well, Karen falls off a set piece because she’s so blown away by Ivy’s talent. Um, she should be fired for that, right? You can only be so green for so long, yes?
Speaking of Karen, the big shot producer from last week calls her into the studio to record a number and wants to see her again, but Karen ignores his request in favour of the workshop performance. Stupid? Her ensemble friends seem to think so. Guess time will tell.
Soon after the last note is sung, and the bows are taken, Eileen, Julia, Tom and Derek gather to read the reviews. They are not great. The team decides a change must be made, and Tom suggests firing Michael, much to Derek’s bewilderment. Tom looks knowingly at Julia, who realizes that in order for her to be able to concentrate on the work, her ex-lover must go. She votes for his firing as well. Eileen backs them, and Derek storms out.
So where does that leave us? Well. Leaves me with a lot of questions. Who will replace Michael. Will Julia be able to focus and write some good material. Will Eileen toy with the idea of bringing in a celebrity for Marilyn. Will Bernadette Peters come back and sing a few more times.
I hope so. That could for sure make this show better.
Favourite scene: Peters singing “Everything’s Coming up Roses”. Hands down.
For the Broadway nerds: see above.
Photo Courtesy of NBC