THE "SMASH" REPORT: Season Two, Episode 4, Or, Doping Out the Characters

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27 Feb 2013

Debra Messing's Julia tosses a copy of <i>The Singing Bird</i> at Peter.
Debra Messing's Julia tosses a copy of The Singing Bird at Peter.
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 dreamers behind Broadway musicals. Here's a look at the Feb. 26 episode, "The Song."


The mind spins following the latest episode of "Smash." Is this mental vertigo a result of the bewitching new pop song, "I Can't Let Go," which series tunesmiths Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote for Jennifer Hudson's character, two-time Tony-winning Broadway star Veronica Moore? Or are you dizzy from trying to track the very basic facts about the characters in Season Two's ever-expanding cast? For example, we now learn that show doctor Peter Gilman (played by Daniel Sunjata) is not only a dramaturg, but he teaches acting at NYU. This may be a first in American theatre, as these are very different skill sets, but perhaps some dramaturg/acting teacher reading this will write to us and set us straight. Peter drags librettist Julia (Debra Messing) to NYU so she can hear her Bombshell rewrites read aloud by students (he's changed the names of her characters). Offensive though it is, it leads Julia to a Eureka moment in which she realizes the men in the show must become more present in Marilyn Monroe's life. Considering director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) is routinely called a "genius," why wasn't he able to urge Julia toward this revelation before? (Derek's genius must be in the way he positions his actors on stage and which designers he hires, not in dramaturgical skills — something true of some of our busiest Broadway directors today.) During this getting-to-know-you process with the pillow-lipped Peter, Julia reads the one play that he has written — a very bad play, we learn — called The Singing Bird. She questions his skills. And so do we. This is the guy who has consulted on four Broadway hits?

Nevertheless, his process has apparently unlocked Julia in ways that are not easily parsed, and feverish rewriting begins, with Julia and Peter thumbing through Marilyn biographies and source material. Peter suggests they complete their work at his country house in the Berkshires. Julia's eyebrows are raised. To be continued. Can she find love with a dramaturg/failed playwright/show doctor/acting teacher?


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