THE "SMASH" REPORT: Episode 14, Or, You Can't End a Musical With a Suicide

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09 May 2012

Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman
Photo by Will Hart/NBC

Playbill's weekly recap, with notes and comment, of the latest episode of the NBC musical drama series "Smash," about the creation of a new Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. Here's a look at the May 7 episode, "Previews."


The final image at the end of the first Boston preview of the Broadway-bound musical Bombshell is of drowsy, pill-filled Marilyn Monroe (as played by movie star Rebecca Duvall, played by series guest star Uma Thurman) twisted in satin bedsheets talking on the phone and murmuring a reprise from the song "Second Hand White Baby Grand," about something discarded still being beautiful and valuable. A broken mirror in the stage floor is revealed. She apparently dies, at the edge of the mattress. Curtain! The audience in Boston is baffled and disappointed by the climax of the musical biography. Not even the lyricist-librettist's husband, Frank, played by Brian d'Arcy James, is happy with the ending. He has the expression of detecting secret flatulence. Or maybe that's the look of someone who just watched his adulterous wife's ex-lover, Michael Swift (Will Chase), play Joe DiMaggio in the show. The musical, as they say, needs work. It's agreed that composer Tom (Christian Borle) and lyricist-librettist Julia (Debra Messing) and director-choreographer Derek (Jack Davenport) will tackle a rewrite of the ending in the coming days. Tom was right when he declared, post-performance, "You can't end a musical with a suicide!" This is the same advice Mike Nichols gave to the writers of Annie when they were testing the show out at Goodspeed Opera House, right?

Jack Davenport and Uma Thurman
photo by Will Hart/NBC

For Rebecca, there will not be a second performance in Marilyn. Not even Derek's dressing-room kisses can make the emotionally shaky, professionally insecure movie star feel like she's a stage star.

"Rebecca needs my attention — and I'm giving it to her," Derek explains to his confused girlfriend Ivy, played by Megan Hilty. "Is there any other approach? You and I are professionals, that's why we do well together." Yeesh. Ivy gets this news, mind you, fresh from having slept with Dev (Raza Jaffrey), the once-perfect boyfriend of chorus rival and frenemy Karen (Katharine McPhee). Karen and Dev had a fight over his abrupt marriage proposal, and their conflicting career issues and his confession of almost sleeping with a reporter. The fight in Boston propelled Dev to a bar — and then to a bed, with Ivy. Karen apologizes to him for the way she acted like a "jerk," and now that previews have begun she's ready for him to pop the question. He's lost the ring, of course, possibly in Ivy's hotel room. Next week's 15th and final episode of Season One of "Smash" is certainly leading to a confrontation.


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