By Kenneth Jones
14 Feb 2012
|Photo by Will Hart/NBC|
By the start of the second episode of the new NBC series "Smash," the producer and creative team of the still-forming Marilyn the Musical have not made a decision about who will be their leading lady — chorus veteran Ivy (played by Megan Hilty), who is gainfully employed in Heaven on Earth over at the Shubert, or newcomer Karen (played Katharine McPhee), who is less gainfully employed as a waitress at Café Orlin, (a real place) in the Village.
Casting Marilyn would seem to be the least important worry this early in the game. After all, there is no full script or score yet! But the writing of a Broadway musical is not the primary hook of the hourlong series created by Theresa Rebeck, the Broadway playwright of Seminar, who also wrote Episode Two. Ivy vs. Karen — that's the core of the series. Will they end up in a fistfight in the fountain at Lincoln Center? Yet to be revealed. You might think that producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston), director-choreographer Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) and writers Tom Leavitt (Christian Borle) and Julia Houston (Debra Messing) would take their time to pick a star, but by the end of this episode, the Leading Lady is named. (Spoiler alert below!) The imagination spins wondering how this casting will be subverted over the next 13 episodes (there are 15 in all). (The promotional posters for "Smash" would seem to give away the series' ending. Who's on top, anyway?)
DEREK AND IVY: More callbacks are needed for dance (for Karen) and scene work (for both Karen and Ivy). "I can't hand this over to a complete neophyte," Derek says. "Not without more information." Derek's inappropriate behavior with actresses was evident in Episode One — remember the 10 PM "work session" with Karen at his apartment? By hour two, he inappropriately loosens Ivy's blonde locks in a one-on-one audition (well, he did ask permission). This tousle of the hair leads to full-on intercourse.
DEV AND KAREN: Karen's impossibly thoughtful and attractive boyfriend, Dev (Raza Jaffrey), deputy press secretary in the Mayor's office, walks with Karen on a lunch break doing what so few real New Yorkers outside of "Law & Order" and "Smash" do — eating a hotdog from a pushcart. "There are a lot of guys out there with a lot of power, and they're hard to deal with, so you should get used to it," Dev tells Karen, referring to Derek, who is remembered as "the guy who had you come over to his apartment at 10 at night for a coaching session…" In Karen's overextended audition for Derek in Episode Two, the director shows a softer side: "You have a lot of what makes Marilyn Marilyn essentially in you. Don't 'do' her — just be her." (This does not lead to intercourse. Karen is the Good Girl.) Later, Dev expresses his anger and disappointment that Karen missed their important dinner with his boss because she stayed overtime with Derek in rehearsal. Dev forgives her her bungle by taking her hand. The episode sets up a future battle of wills between Derek and Dev, who are both Brits.
|photo by Will Hart/NBC|
WALK WITH MUSIC: As Ivy walks to work with her loyal Heaven on Earth chorus friends (Broadway's Phillip Spaeth as Dennis and Savannah Wise as Jessica), grumbling about the new callbacks, we get a clear view of West 44th Street, a storied lane in the Broadway theatre district. ("Smash" is shot on location around New York City and in studios in Brooklyn and Long Island City.) As they walk east, on the south side of 44th, we see the St. James Theatre (complete with the marquee for the now-closed Harry Connick, Jr. vehicle On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, which was directed by Episode Two's director Michael Mayer, a series consulting producer). And there's the Phantom mask of the Majestic on the right. There's the Rock of Ages marquee at the Helen Hayes Theatre on the left. And there's the marquee for Hugh Jackman's one-man show (now closed) on the right. As the scene ends, the storefront at left is none other than the showbiz eatery Sardi's (blink and miss it). Later, thanks to special effects, we see the Shubert (currently home to Memphis but more famously the longtime home to A Chorus Line), festooned with the wall-size graphics for Tom & Julia's hit show Heaven on Earth.Continued...