THE "SMASH" REPORT: Season Two, Episode 6, Or, Voices and Visions

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13 Mar 2013

Megan Hilty as Ivy in rehearsal for Liaisons.
Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC

The Brooklyn potheads Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan) and Kyle (Andy Mientus), who are writing the funky downtown rock show Hit List, have snagged two nights in the grungy Winter Fringe (a fictional event). It's a chance to promote a work in progress, in a self-producing scenario (vaguely reflecting what happens at the New York Musical Theatre Festival but more closely resembling the New York International Fringe Festival). In the words of the wildly inexperienced wannabes Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ana (Krysta Rodriguez): With the Fringe, "sometimes it's a disaster," but "sometimes you break out!"

These shaggy troupers have 10 hours to slap their show together in a basement space with minimal sets. (The set is a brick wall with a Pepsi-Cola logo painted as a backdrop.) Rising star Karen has agreed to perform with Jimmy in this little two-performance showcase, which reflects only Act One of Hit List (because nobody in "Smash" has written a complete show!), and her casting has been reported in TimeOut NY. When Bombshell producer Jerry (Michael Cristofer) reads about it, he forbids Karen to do it. He's got to protect his property! (Really, he's just being a bully.)

So, Karen pulls out of the Fringe, Jimmy feels betrayed, another (unseen) girl steps in, but then for the second night, Karen sneaks in to appear opposite Jimmy. It turns out that the artistic director of the Manhattan Theatre Workshop (a fictional company patterned after New York Theatre Workshop, where Rent began) is in the house (he's played by original Rent star Jesse L. Martin, who became an NBC star on "Law & Order"), and he wants to produce Hit List based on the hour of material he has seen! And, he says, he hopes Karen and Jimmy will star! Ana was right: You really can break out at the Fringe (and not just from the bed bugs in the seats!).

Tony-winning director-choreographer Derek (Jack Davenport), who has staged the entirety of one of the versions of Bombshell, is hijacked in his own rehearsal room when composer Tom (Christian Borle) rearranges and restages a number ("Never Give All the Heart") that was not working for Jerry and ex-producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston), who wanted to cut it. Tom seeks to preserve lyricist-librettist Julia's vision (such as it is), and she loves the change! But it insults Derek, who quits.

This brings to light an interesting (and, of course, unexplored in the teleplay) question about rehearsal rooms: Who "owns" that room at this point? The producers? The writers? The director?

Most smart show people would say "the director," though the Dramatists Guild contract says that writers must be allowed access to the experience. Getting notes from the producers during the rehearsal? It doesn't really happen unless it's the most dysfunctional of circumstances.

Tom is appointed director of Bombshell since he can realize the producers' vision of the show (which Derek and Julia had been fighting against): It's "a dynamic Technicolor fantasy of the way Marilyn made herself…" And Julia (Debra Messing) is now a convert, willing to discard Derek.


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