Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Smash Episode 205: The Read-Through

Smash finally uses TV to its advantage
in the "Public Relations" number
Thanks a lot, Smash, just as your stupid plot was starting to make sense and actually get me interested, you screw it up this week and I'm back to hate-watching. The title of this week's episode is The Read-Through and there are two of them--get it? Bombshell and Hit List, but how can Karen, who is in both shows, be in two places at the same time? And how can Derek do both shows--even if it's only for the Winter Fringe Festival, whatever the heck that is?

It all started so well with a great production number called "Public Relations" featuring Christian Borle playing multiple roles as Karen as Marilyn enters in an airplane for a press conference. (I actually saw the real flop Marilyn musical back in the 80s and I seem to recall a similar number.) This snazzy production number actually took advantage of being on TV in a way none of the other Smash songs have with Borle appearing as a slew of foreign journalists in funny wigs. I could suspend my disbelief about the Belasco being the house for Bombshell. It's too small for big lavish musical and Jerry, the avaricious new producer, would never consent to it if he wants to maximize his profit. He'd want a much bigger theater like the Minskoff or the Gershwin. But are we in the real world where Lion King and Wicked are still playing at those theaters? Is the St. James no longer available since Jordan Roth pulled it during the financial scandal in episode 1?

Anyway, everything seems to be riding on Julia's new version of the book which she crafted with Peter the Hot Dramaturg at his Berkshires getaway, to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. But she runs into real-life playwright Jon Robin Baitz (Other Desert Cities) who drops a plot point about Peter being a backstabber. (BTW, Baitz apparently had a thing with Tom.) Meanwhile, Ivy has started rehearsals for Liaisons with a goofball movie star played by Sean Hayes and the magnificent Veanne Cox.

Derek has pulled a few strings and Hit List has a slot in the Winter Fringe Festival (there's no such thing, but let's move on.) All they have to do is pull a show together from Jimmy's brilliant songs (HA!) and Kyle's story written on napkins and Post-It notes--in two weeks. Down at their enormous loft space in Fort Greene, Jimmy and Kyle prepare for their reading and we still don't know their true story. What was the crackhouse Jimmy broke into two episodes ago? What does Jimmy mean when he says Kyle is his whole family? Were they orphans together and sold into bondage as rent boys? Was the guy who beat up Jimmy their pimp?

There's a second version of the Bombshell script in Jerry's hands. The girl from the Hairspray movie is now working in Jerry's office and she spills the beans to Tom and Julia who automatically suspect Peter of doublecrossing them. Which script are they going to be reading and why is Karen at the Hit List read-thru instead of with the grown-ups at Bombshell? Don't they need their leading lady?

So they read Julia's new script and everyone thinks it's brilliant, while Hit List stinks up the place. Evidently Jimmy's songs are dazzling gifts from the musical theater gods and Kyle's script is dreck from hell. Now Kyle gets all hissy-fit like Jimmy and storms out. BTW, so Kyle doesn't write the lyrics, is it all Jimmy? Does Kyle help with the lyrics? If not, why did he get a bow at Jennifer Hudson's concert? On their roof Karen consoles Kyle by stating the obvious "You can't expect to write the Great American Musical the first time out." The group including Karen's roommate--still don't know her name--decides to ditch Kyle's rotten book and do Hit List sung-through just like Rent. Except Rent was NOT sung-through! Also Kyle lies to Jimmy saying Karen is sleeping with Derek so his beloved roommate-collaborator will not become romantically involved with her. Is Kyle that pathetic? Or maybe he's protecting Karen from Jimmy's evil side.

Ivy gives the Sean Hayes character an acting lesson ("Feel the fear or else the work won't be any good") and again proves she'd be a much better Marilyn than airheaded Karen. The Ivy Lynn School of Acting. Lesson One: Sit in a dark room and have your friends put on a sheet and scream BOO! Sean starts his own Acting method: No more Zoloft. So now we'll get Sean being full of mood swings and all zany and unpredictable.

Back at Bombshell, Jerry admires the new draft, but thinks it will be an artsy-fartsy, Drama Desk-winning money-loser like Follies, Ragtime, Grey Gardens and Sunday in the Park with George (why didn't he throw in The Scottsboro Boys?) It turns out the other script was the workshop version we saw last season which Tom sent Jerry by mistake (huh?) and that's the one Jerry wants to do. So does Tom. But Derek and Julia want the newer, more concept-y version focusing on the men in Marilyn's life. Stalemate. So let's leave it up to Eileen.

Here's where it gets confusing. If Jerry is out to crush Eileen as revealed in last week's episode, why did he hand her all the power this week and allow her to make the cliffhanging decision? And if she's no longer the producer, as decided by the federal authorities, why should she have a say in the matter anyway? And didn't the workshop really suck? Didn't Julia's early version get really bad reviews in Boston and wasn't that basically the same script as the workshop? Eileen is cut off in mid sentence as she is about to announce her decision and the episode ends.

Next week, Karen must chose between Bombshell and Hit List. I pray she makes the stupid choice of going for the incomplete, incoherent show by two unknowns over the possible smash hit by two professionals with a definite Broadway berth. I have a feeling both she and Derek will ankle, Sean Hayes will pull out of Liaisons leaving Ivy free to play Marilyn, Tom will take over Bombshell's direction, and Hit List will miraculously come together in time for the Tony Awards. 

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