THE "SMASH" REPORT: Episode 14, Or, You Can't End a Musical With a Suicide
09 May 2012
Photo by Will Hart/NBC
Producing assistant Ellis (Jaime Cepero), like most of the under-30 kids attached to Bombshell, is an incipient alcoholic. Those chorus kids can sure throw it back — how do they dance the next day? Are vodka-sodas and shots joint lubricants? For that matter, how did Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse dance after smoking a pack of cigarettes a day? Ellis says that the problem with Bombshell is the casting of Rebecca Duvall, and drunkenly suggests to producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) that she's not a very good producer. This does not get him fired, but he is dismissed from her table at a piano bar in which a pianist (played by the series composer Marc Shaiman) is tinkling the melody of "Butter Outta Cream" (from the Broadway musical Catch Me If You Can) on the other side of the room. Eileen slinks over to the piano man and he invites her to sing. She delicately, tentatively performs "September Song," taking a stool and crossing her legs, looking a little like Karen Akers in Grand Hotel. (You'd never know this was a producer with a show in serious crisis.) The Kurt Weill-Maxwell Anderson song is from the 1939 Broadway musical Knickerbocker Holiday, and was introduced by Huston's grandfather, Walter Huston. The number references sixtysomething Eileen's relationship with the younger barkeep Nick, played by Thorsten Kaye. The New York Times published a recent interview with Anjelica Huston about the song's placement in the series. (Incidentally, the piano-bar crowd includes the series co-lyricist Scott Wittman, who won the Best Score Tony Award with Shaiman for Hairspray, and co-wrote the songs to the aforementioned Catch Me If You Can. In the scene, he's silver-haired, wearing thick glasses and sitting alone at a table, looking like he's dreaming up inner-rhymes.)
Anjelica Huston and Thorsten Kaye
photo by Will Hart/NBC
To add to the uncertainty of that first weekend of previews, Rebecca has a severe allergic reaction to a peanut-tainted smoothie (!), and is hospitalized. Saturday and Sunday performances are cancelled. Her assistant Randall (Sean Dugan) suspects foul play. Wasn't Ellis in charge of her smoothie-making? Isn't Karen her eager understudy? Doesn't bitter Ivy want the lead role? These questions are not asked out loud, yet. (Wait a second, wasn't Julia eating bananas and peanut butter in last week's episode? Too much of a stretch?) By episode's end, Rebecca — the kind of star who has shrink appointments via telephone — decides the show's not for her. It's too much pressure. "There's always someone coming up in back of you," she says. Hungry Ivy knows all the material — she did the workshop — but Karen is the understudy. Who will be the Boston replacement? Tune in next week for the season finale.
Holed up in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert, two former lovers unpack the deep secrets and dark desires of their tangled relationship, passionately tearing each other apart. Led by director Daniel Aukin (Back Back Back at MTC, 4,000 Miles), Tony winner Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur at MTC, Born Yesterday) and Sam Rockwell (A Behanding in Spokane, The Way Way Back) bring an explosive intensity to Sam Shepard’s (Buried Child, True West) landmark myth of the new Wild West.