Katharine McPhee as Marilyn in "Public Relations."
Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC
Playbill's weekly recap, with notes and comment, of the latest episode of the NBC musical drama series "Smash," about the dreamers behind Broadway musicals. Here's a look at the March 5 episode, "The Read-Through."
Like a brisk, cool, clarifying ocean wind blowing the haze off a smog-enrobed city, an oxygen-filled song by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, choreographed vivaciously by Emmy Award winner Joshua Bergasse, opened the latest episode of "Smash." The tune is called "Public Relations," and composer Tom (Christian Borle) explains to director Derek (Jack Davenport) what the song is: a "possible new number" to open Act Two of Bombshell, in which Marilyn Monroe arrives via airplane and meets the press.
Packed with the same sort of wordplay — and physical brio — that we got in "The National Pastime" from Season One, it reminds you why you watched "Smash" in the first place: Those Musical Numbers.
This one is all in Tom's head, with Tom playing multiple comic, singing and dancing roles in the ensemble — even in drag as a lady British reporter. Goofing it up plays to Borle's strengths; he's a daffy comedian (and won a Tony for being just that in Peter and the Starcatcher, in addition to being memorable in a handful of parts in Monty Python'sSpamalot). What the TV audience still might not get from the series (which often shows Tom listening intently to other people complain) is that Borle (as stated in the Season One Playbill "Smash" Reports) belongs at the center of a Broadway musical comedy. If and when the London production of Singin' in the Rain comes to Broadway, could he please be cast in the Donald O'Connor role? Or even the Gene Kelly role?
"Public Relations" is a sometimes stilly, always tuneful, highly imaginative sequence with an M-G-M/Busby Berkeley flair — overhead shots show dancers (reporters, porters, airline employees on a tarmac) in kaleidoscopic patterns. The rich orchestration is by Shaiman and Broadway's Douglas Besterman. All this, in the first five minutes of the episode!