THE "SMASH" REPORT: Season Two, Episode 9, Or, I'm a Pretty Girl, Mama

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03 Apr 2013

Megan Hilty and Bernadette Peters
Photo by Will Hart/NBC

Ivy (Megan Hilty) learns early in this episode that the role of Marilyn's mother, Gladys, has been cast. "Patti LuPone?" Ivy coos. No, someone closer to home. Enter two-time Tony Award winner Peters as Leigh. Mom got the offer to come out of retirement yesterday, and is already down in the city from upstate, and has her lines memorized (we wish the teleplay writer had used the phrase "off book"). Bombshell's producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) and writers Tom (Christian Borle) and Julia (Debra Messing) all agreed that the show needs star power, and they knew that the New York Times would love the angle of the mother-daughter casting! (Artists and producers shaping their art based on the desires of the Times is a troubling idea, even in the shaggy hyper-fiction that is "Smash.") Even Leigh tells her daughter the show needs a star, and that Ivy is not enough.

Now that Ivy is finally getting her shot, after years of work, ready or not, here comes mama threatening to overshadow her. Ivy resents Tom, especially, because she thought their friendship would prevent such a hurtful casting decision. (Ivy and Leigh have longstanding, unresolved issues about ego, competition, narcissism, neglect and more.) By the end of the episode, Ivy draws the line with Tom: They are no longer friends, just colleagues.

Composer Tom, who is now also the director of Bombshell, still needs schooling on how to be a director — specifically, how to coax performances of depth out of Ivy and Leigh in their Marilyn and Gladys moments in rehearsal. Their "contentious" scenes are lukewarm, polite and robotic. Watching their flat work, stage manager Linda (Ann Harada) makes a face that indicates someone in the rehearsal room has soiled their pants. Linda is that rare stage manager who is decidedly un-Sphinx-like! (Harada is delicious Stepsister Charlotte in Broadway's current Cinderella, singing a pungent "Stepsister's Lament" by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Here are Playbill Video highlights of the musical.)


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