If, like me, you saw previews for this week's "Smash" with Kathie Lee Gifford doing the mambo in a Marilyn wig, fear not—Eileen has not replaced Ivy Lynn with Kathie Lee. Ms. Gifford has merely stopped by to shoot a "Today" show segment wherein Ivy teaches young theatre students the "Twentieth Century Mambo," just one of a slew of events scheduled to promote Bombshell and hopefully boost ticket sales, which are slow.
"Smile, baby," Ivy is reminded, "sing out!" And then, "Chop chop." You don't want to be late for your performance at the Brighton Beach Senior Center. You've got to hand it to Eileen and her publicist, Agnes, for their ingenuity—Marilyn Monroe signing autographs a at a Macy's sweater sale? They are not kidding around. And after all, Marisa Tomei broke her leg so the Moonstruck opening is delayed, Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest mediocrity has posted its closing notice, and apparently the less is said about the show called Imitation of Life, the better (it is "D.O.A."). If Eileen can keep Bombshell running through June, she's all but assured the Tony Award for Best Musical (the only Tony Award that does anything for ticket sales, although performing a number on the Tonys is also a boost and all the nominees get to do that.)
Of course, like any good publicist, Agnes takes an aggressive producorial interest in Bombshell and is the first to point out to Eileen the difficulties of keeping the show running for so long, "unless you have a sugar daddy."
But wait, Manhattan Theater Workshop wants to move Hit List to Broadway THIS SEASON! Uh-oh.
As much as Eileen's hands may be full, she manages to take a moment to stir up some sh*t with Tom (inadvertently it seems, although I have a hard time believing Eileen does many things by mistake). In the course of conversation at the Today show taping, Eileen spills the beans to Tom that Julia is writing a non-musical adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" for Manhattan Theater Workshop. Scott just announced it to his board.
|Photo by Will Hart/NBC|
Julia and Tom proceed to engage in some ridiculously high school back-and-forth of, "You said you didn't want to do it," "No, I didn't," "Yes, you did," "Nuh-uh" "Uh-huh," in which Julia even goes downtown to tell Scott she's pulling her play from MTW and going to do the musical adaptation with Tom after all, only to change her mind and go back uptown and have the same fight with Tom all over again.
Then, in what I can only hope is an homage to Charley Kringas' "Franklin Shepherd, Inc." meltdown in Merrily We Roll Along, Julia and Tom spend their Q&A at Table 46 (hosted by Bombshell's Marilyn Monroe, Ivy Lynn, tickets and info at bombshellonbroadway.com) passive-aggressively jabbing at each other until Tom finally just plainly says they are no longer working together. Julia asks him to just give her time, saying working without him on "Gatsby" is the first thing that's made her happy in years. It's not much of an argument for reconciliation.
Meanwhile, downtown, there is Jimmy drama! It starts when he's well over two hours late for a photo shoot for the cover of New York magazine, which for an Off-Broadway musical that hasn't even opened yet, is, to say the least, borrowing a phrase from Oscar Hammerstein, to let his golden chances pass him by.
No one can find him. Kyle says he didn't come home last night (and worst of all, it's reported he left the theater in his costume!). He finally stumbles out of a cab, flanked by floozies, and throws a tantrum when he finds Derek auditioning Sam, formerly of Bombshell, to be his understudy. Even Jimmy, even Jimmy drunk (or high on whatever he has in those little quarter bags), ought to realize if anyone needs an understudy, it's surely him, but an argument ensues and Derek warns Jimmy he better deliver tonight or he's fired from his role in Hit List.
After all, tonight is important, more important than the first preview—more important than the opening night—tonight is the night when every major Broadway producer is going to be in the house (Kevin McCollum, Daryl Roth, EVERYONE). Tonight, if you dropped a bomb on Manhattan Theater Workshop, there would no Broadway, there would be NO TONY AWARDS!
Am I the only one who thinks it might have been prudent to hire Jimmy's understudy at some point earlier in this process, before tech (as is usually done), or even when performances began, or even, I don't know, maybe when Jimmy was cast considering that he is also the composer and also considering that he is also a raging drug addict? Really, anytime before this afternoon would have been swell, but what's done is done and now we chew our fingernails and hope Jimmy reappears at half-hour.
At first, the prospects for Jimmy coming through look alright. After the fight, he sticks around the green room talking to Kyle and even talking to Derek.
Jimmy and Derek's relationship is actually one of my favorite dynamics on the show. Despite the sometimes over-the-top melodrama of their situation, there is often a layer of humor, lending both characters a touch of humanity so frequently lacking on "Smash," and particularly lacking with Jimmy's plotline. In this scene, Derek explains that the hiring of Sam as Jimmy's understudy means the next time Jimmy goes on a bender, the show won't suffer. Jimmy responds with a touch of sass, "only the audience will," and Derek actually giggles, sort of amused, even a bit charmed by Jimmy's swagger, perhaps reminding him of his own youthful bravado. It doesn't erase everything else, including all the negativity Derek feels for Jimmy, but this little bit of levity exists along with the rest of it and it goes a long way toward making the scene more interesting and compelling.
But still, we are left to wonder what will happen. Jimmy said he'd join Kyle for dinner with Kyle's parents and Blake (who still doesn't know about Kyle's fling with Tom), and he doesn't show up. Instead Kyle's mother (played to perfection in an all-too-rare television appearance by Broadway favorite Carolee Carmello) must take time away from celebrating her precious baby boy's Off-Broadway debut to worry about Jimmy, asking, "Is he using again?"
The answer—in case anyone had any doubt at this point—is yes.
Jimmy does make it to the theatre in time for the show, albeit with ten minutes to curtain, and we see him stashing drugs in his back pocket along with his microphone pack, the sum total of what Jimmy needs to get through a performance. Jimmy's performance is understandably somewhat erratic, from some minor blocking mess-ups only Derek would notice to a bizarre attempt to thrash around in what may look to him (or us) like a mosh pit, but is actually the fully choreographed ensemble executing the 11 o'clock number.
Worst of all, Jimmy misses his cue to catch Karen after her character is shot and while she sustains only a minor scratch on her arm, we cut to commercial on the image of Jimmy cradling a bleeding Karen in his arms, murmuring apologies full of sorrow and regret.
Despite all the excitement in the air and a standing ovation, Kevin McCollum and Daryl Roth pass. "Like Hedwig and Rocky Horror Picture Show," Hit List is too edgy, Agnes comments in her loyal-to-Bombshell effort to sabotage Hit List. There's edgy and then there's the cliff.
Well, maybe to them. Maybe most producers are motivated by money, but not Eileen Rand. Eileen has taste. She may tell Derek she can't transfer Hit List to Broadway and she may even still believe it herself, but as she looks out her office window at the Bombshell marquee lit up in Times Square, she holds the Hit List Playbill up to the light, and it's not hard to join her in imagining these two jewels shining together in her Broadway crown. And it doesn't hurt that ticket sales for Bombshell have gone up, possibly due to the public break-up of Tom and Julia.
Karen wants to go get drunk with everyone at the bar, so her stage manager files only the barest minimum of Actors Equity injury paperwork and just advises Karen to get her arm looked at.
At the bar, Kyle's co-dependence is in full gear. He'll apologize for Jimmy to anyone who'll listen and when he's told that Jimmy is fired from the cast, Kyle wants to be the one to tell Jimmy. Sure, Jimmy will lash out at him, but to quote Carousel again, "If someone you love hits you, it doesn't hurt at all."
Sure enough, once Jimmy arrives clamoring to be the toast of the evening (even the producers who passed on the show loved Jimmy!), Kyle breaks the news and Jimmy goes ballistic, jumping up on the bar to announce his firing and to read the riot act to Karen and Kyle, revealing Kyle's affair with Tom to Blake. Blake storms off and so does Jimmy and Kyle is left second-guessing any self-caring inclinations he may have to cut Jimmy out of his life. Karen and Ana encourage him to ditch Jimmy once and for all and he runs home, tearfully singing Jeff Buckley's "The Last Goodbye" as he packs Jimmy's things (and a cute photo-booth strip of the two of them in happier times) into an army surplus duffle bag and hauls it over to Jimmy's brother's apartment.
Once again, Derek is alone at the bar. Ivy's screening his calls again, too busy catching up on all the HBO she missed while promoting Bombshell. Who should sidle up with mischief on her mind? None other than Karen Cartwright! She may have pushed him away before, but make no mistake about it, Karen wants Derek tonight. After another round, she wants him to walk her home, and she takes his arm romantically. It might be a false cliff-hanger and we'll learn next week that nothing happened, but I think these two have had a date with destiny since that informal coaching session at his place when she put on her lipstick and took off her pants.
We don't stay with them long enough to find out what happens next because the last moment of this week's "Smash" is reserved for a bigger cliff-hanger, exactly the soap opera juggernaut all this melodrama has been building to for months.
Kyle finishes his Jeff Buckley song, drops off Jimmy's bag and the camera catches him caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
I hope he's okay!
(Ben Rimalower is the author and star of the critically acclaimed Patti Issues now its ninth hit month off Off-Broadway. Read Playbill.com's coverage of the solo show here. Visit him at benrimalower.com and follow @benrimalower on Twitter.)