The SMASH Reality Index (S2, EP11)

Christian Borle / SMASH

Christian Borle / SMASH

By NineDaves and Linda Buchwald

It’s really too bad that NBC decided to move SMASH to Saturday nights right when the show was getting good. Last week, we were pleasantly surprised with the direction the show was going, and this week’s episode “The Dress Rehearsal” continued to present us with poignant conflicts and smart creative decisions. The Bombshell crew debated cancelling a first preview after a rough invited dress – and wondered what impact that might have on their ticket sales. Derek made significant structural changes to Hit List that created dynamic, exciting dramatic action. And Ivy made a controversial acting choice that added a bit of edge to Bombshell we never thought we’d see! We love when SMASH shows us more of the creative process than the nonsensical personal lives of the cast. Now if only we could get NBC to show us previews for next week again!

Meanwhile, the inevitable rivalry between Hit List and Bombshell came to a head when The New York Times published its article “Iconoclash: Marilyn’s Past Meets Marilyn’s Present.” The article compared how the two shows “explore the power and the price of transformation,” eventually settling that “The difference is while Bombshell rakes over the past, Hit List opens our eyes to the present and the inevitable future.” We’re not sure we agree with that end result, seeing the nonsense that we’ve seen from Hit List so far. But Hit List will certainly be on the fast track to Broadway now (which is plausible, since that’s what happened to Once last year). And as we’ve been saying all season, they’re certain to go up against each other at the fake Tonys.

Only six more episodes, people. Let’s do this:

Totally True

  • Tom is having nightmares about his big directing debut. One of them involves being in bed with Ellis. Plus 50 because that should be the textbook definition of the word “nightmare” right there.
  • We may not have gotten to see Tom without his shirt on, but we’ll take Tom in some tight boxer briefs from behind. Plus 10.
  • Ivy wakes up in bed next to Derek. Plus 20 because as awful of a couple as they were in season one, they’re both far too attractive not to be getting any.
  • Today’s Bombshell’s invited dress. “Whoever thought it was a good idea to have your first performance be in front of your friends and family was obviously not an actor,” Ivy says. Plus 50.
  • Tom apparently told Derek, “I will hurt you if you come [to invited dress],” which makes us love Tom more than ever.
  • “Today’s the day,” Eileen says on the day of the Bombshell dress rehearsal. “Tomorrow’s the real day,” says Julia. Because it doesn’t really count until a paying audience comes to see the show.
  • Jimmy says he’s written 9 songs in 3 days, surviving only on Adderall and Red Bull. That’s how most people these days make it through college! Plus 30.
  • “I wouldn’t be surprised if Ana was the lead after this,” says Jimmy, to Karen, about all the changes Derek’s been making to Hit List. Does that mean Karen Cartwright gets Best Featured Actress in a Musical at the fake Tonys and Ivy gets Best Lead Actress in a Musical?
  • At Bombshell’s invited dress, Kyle again reminds everyone he saw Bombshell in Boston like the Broadway fanboy he is. Plus 50.
  • Also, is it just us or would Kyle and Tom make a cute couple? No? Just projecting our Andy Mientus / Christian Borle fantasies on you? Right. Okay. Got it.
  • During Bombshell’s invited dress, “Let Me Be Your Star” starts and the doors don’t open right away. We’re having flashbacks to 9 to 5: The Musical previews where they stopped the show halfway through the opening number to fix tech issues. Plus 100.
  • In a scene where JFK is supposed to remove Marilyn’s dress, he accidentally removes Marilyn’s dress and slip, revealing a very nude Ivy Lynn. Plus 20 because we hear some folks at Cat on a Hot Tin Roof had similar things happen with Ben Walker. (And we hate those folks because they weren’t us).
  • “I’m sure half the audience didn’t even notice,” Sam says to Ivy about her Janet Jackson moment. What are best friends for if not to make you feel better after you accidentally flash an audience?
  • Bobby and Jessica are reading BroadwayWorld message board comments. Because of course there would already be chatter about the invited dress.
  • “The stupendous Ivy Lynn is Marilyn Monroe in the flesh. Also, literally.” These fake message board comments are SO right on.
  • The online chatter says to “buy your front row tickets while you can” to Bombshell not because of the book, music, or overall performances – but because Ivy Lynn is naked. We’d like to think theater fans aren’t this shallow, but we saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof because of “Ben Walker in a towel,” Bonnie & Clyde because of “Jeremy Jordan in a bathtub,” and Ghost: The Musical because of “Richard Fleeshman’s abs.” So….
  • Ivy Lynn is embarrassed that word got out about her naked slip up, until she hears that people are raving about it, and then she’s all like, “let me see that…” Plus 50 because a truer Ivy Lynn moment has never happened.
  • IT’S TIME FOR OUR FAVORITE FEATURE! THE ANN HARADA LINE OF THE WEEK! “So, the scrim didn’t open in ‘Star.’ Eight-year-old Norma Jean went up on her lines in ‘At Your Feet.’ The fog overwhelmed everyone in ‘Don’t Say Yes.’ The house did not come in for ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith.’ Brian’s out of commission so we need to put in a swing. Intermission was 45 minutes long.” CONGRATS ANN! THAT’S YOUR LONGEST CHUNK YET!
  • Eileen and Julia advocate to cancel Bombshell’s first preview because there’s still technical work to be done on the show. “Productions cancel first previews all the time,” Julia reasons. “Only troubled ones,” responds Tom. “It’s basically an invitation for the press to say the show’s a disaster – sharpen your knives.” Tom is totally right – a cancelled first preview doesn’t show great promise for a show.
  • Eileen makes Tom a deal that if he can fix all the problems of the show by 3pm, they won’t cancel. Is this a plot from Xanadu? Plus 50.
  • Eileen and Julia want to keep Marilyn’s nudity in the show, but for very different reasons. Eileen thinks it’ll help sell tickets, while Julia thinks it shows Marilyn at her most vulnerable. Plus 50 for showing multiple sides of the debate on why certain choices get made in the theater.
  • Ana is slowly becoming the most realistic character on SMASH. Having to yet again calm Karen’s nerves about Jimmy’s past, she smacks Karen in the face with a dose of reality: “He gets high. We know that.” Plus 20 because every girl needs a friend to give her the honest truth. Even Karen Cartwright.
  • During a tech mishap, Tom screams after Linda the stage manager. Plus 50 for giving our Linda the chance to hear Christian Borle yell her name.
  • Back at Hit List rehearsal, we see the cast applauding after seeing Ana perform one of Jimmy’s new songs. Plus 5 because the Hit List songs have been so meh, we’re kinda glad we don’t have to watch a new one.
  • Derek has a new idea for how to open Hit List. He wants to start at the end with the Diva character going to Amanda’s concert and pointing a gun at the audience, with the audience not knowing who she killed. Though starting at the end doesn’t work a lot of the time (did any of you see Grace?), the idea intrigues us more than what Derek has come up with for the rest of the show. Plus 80.

P.S. How amazing is Krysta Rodriguez in this scene?

  • Karen, like the brat she is, doesn’t want Ana to sing her favorite song, even if it means improving the show.
  • “Kids, never again,” says Tom after getting Norma Jean off book. “We fixed the fog, never again,” Linda responds. Plus 50 because these are two things we can do without in musicals.
  • Derek wants the show to be more than a Romeo and Juliet clone. Good because we don’t need any more of those. We’re already getting two Romeo and Juliets next season!
  • Jimmy is once again fighting Derek about the changes he’s making to Hit List. “This is how development works.” Derek barks. “You keep making changes until you get it right.” Finally, we are remembering why we love Derek.
  • When asked what he thinks about Derek’s Hit List changes, Kyle sides with Derek. Jimmy, of course, throws a shit fit. But Kyle, shockingly, stands up to him. “We’re a team except you don’t listen to anything I say.” Way to finally grow a pair, Kyle. We’re so proud of you!
  • Ivy is still debating whether she wants to do the nudity in Bombshell. We’re sure many actors have this internal debate, and we applaud SMASH for giving Ivy something to actually struggle with.
  • Sam tries to convince Ivy not to do the nude scene. “You are giving an amazing performance,” he says. “If you take your clothes off, that’s all people will remember. Trust me. I was in Take Me Out. Do you remember the plot?” “I remember… penis,” she says. “I see your point,” “Everyone saw my point,” Sam responds. Plus 500 for this whole exchange. To this day, we still regret missing that show.
  • Tom puts Jordan on as a swing first because he’s been in the company longer. THAT’S HOW THIS SHIT WORKS FOLKS!
  • “We got the intermission down but it’s still running long,” Linda says. “Well, maybe I could quickly write a really long entr’acte,” Tom says. “And orchestrate it, and give it to the musicians, and have them learn it? Did I say that out loud?” LINDA THE STAGE MANAGER IS THE VOICE OF US ALL.
  • Karen is pissed Ana let Derek give her “Broadway Here I Come.” And in doing so, Ana finally stands up to Karen, calling her out on her unsupportive, jealous ways. “It’s not my fault Derek thinks I’m talented and wants to use it,” says Ana. “This isn’t about talent,” Karen replies, implying that Derek is just jealous of Karen and Jimmy and is trying to punish her. “Maybe not for you. Guess you should have slept with Derek when you had the chance,” Ana replies. Damn Ana! Way to finally call Karen out on her shitty ways! Plus 100!
  • Also, both Ana and Kyle, standing up to Karen and Jimmy in the same episode? Thank you SMASH!
  • “That’s the best part about downtown theater,” says Scott. “There are no planes. Except the ones made by dancers.” “Oh God that is so Derek,” says Tom. Plus 15.
  •  Derek is reading American Theatre again. Plus 10.
  • Plus 30 for referencing The New York Times fact-checkers! If only the SMASH writers used them!
  • Derek tells Karen about Jimmy’s sketchiness. It had to come out somehow – and we kind of love that Derek was the bitch to do it.
  • Ivy didn’t go for the nudity in the song, but she does it later when JFK is about to leave her. Plus 100 because Ivy Lynn made a damn good acting choice. If JFK strips her naked, it’s just another man sexualizing Marilyn. If Marilyn strips herself naked, it’s Marilyn using her sexuality. She’s vulnerable in both places, but more so in the second choice because she’s rejected by JFK. GREAT JOB, IVY!
  • While we’re giving out kudos, kudos to SMASH for actually showing us the BOOK of Bombshell.
  • And shit – Plus another 100 because we actually agree with the choice Ivy made. We knew that Ivy wouldn’t care if she is remembered for taking off her clothes, just so long as she is remembered.
  • Outside of Bombshell, some random woman asks Tom, “Wasn’t it wonderful?” Plus 50 because we always witness audience members talking to members of the creative team, not realizing they’re members of the creative team.
  • Tom is watching Ivy sign autographs at the stage door and it’s such a sweet moment that it’s melting our cold cold hearts.
  • Tom has to check what people are saying about the preview before he can enjoy the rest of the night. We’ve said this before: no matter how often actors and creatives pretend to ignore message boards and Twitter and reviews, we know they all read everything.
  • Tom learns about Julia’s work on Hit List in The New York Times article. Because Julia is too much of a pussy to tell him herself.
  • We have to give props to Christian Borle in this scene. Give the man an Emmy.
  • “I’m sorry. I am a dick,” Jimmy says to Kyle, apologizing. “Yeah, you are,” says Kyle and the 5 people still watching SMASH.
  • Derek is waiting on Ivy’s front steps and says that she didn’t call. Because Derek doesn’t wait for girls to call – he goes out and gets them!
  • Karen and Jimmy break up because he won’t tell her about his past. This seems like a ridiculous reason to end things, and we know it’s not the end of them, but shit at least we have some time of not having to deal with these assholes being together. Plus 50.

Oh Hell No!

  • Tom begins the episode by having a cliché naked-in-front-of-the-audience nightmare. Normally, we’d be all about seeing Christian Borle naked. But SMASH deprives us of even a little torso action, and shoots him in silhouette from behind. Minus 100.
  • Tom then dreams he’s in bed with Ellis! Minus 100 because ewwww, and another 100 because we saw more shirtless Jamie Cepero than we did Christian Borle and that’s just not fair.
  • Tom telling Julia about how concerned he is about Bombshell. “You’re not the only one who has a lot to lose here.” Julia says. “Remember my reviews in Boston?” NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT YOU, JULIA.
  • Tom says he’s worried about the ghost of Derek Wills. Given what we’ve seen of Derek’s work, Tom shouldn’t be too concerned.
  • Tom also says that as a first-time director, he won’t get another shot if it doesn’t work out. Even if Bombshell bombs, we’d guess Tom will be okay. Frank Wildhorn keeps getting musicals produced, after all.
  • What the hell is the Lily Hayes Theatre? Bombshell is playing at the Lyceum. Why did they change the name on the marquee? Minus 100.
  • Why is Kyle at the Bombshell invited dress? He’s in the middle of rehearsals for his show.
  • Tom and Julia notice that JFK’s ring caught on Ivy’s dress. Minus 20 because that shit was happening with their back to the audience. Tom and Julia never would have seen that.
  • Julia says there’s been 14 mistakes in act 1, and Tom seems really bothered by that. It’s invited dress – 14 mistakes isn’t that much.
  • The audience audibly gasps at the sight of Ivy’ neeked body. Like, we get it that they might not be expecting nudity in this musical, but they wouldn’t react like children.
  • Also, wouldn’t Ivy be wearing some sort of nude performance panties? We wouldn’t have seen her hoo ha.
  • For the last time, SMASH, TheaterMania doesn’t have message boards! Minus 100.
  • Eileen wants to cancel the Bombshell first preview because she doesn’t want to show something to an audience that isn’t ready. Though we appreciate that a producer wouldn’t want to sell full-price tickets for an unfinished show, no show is perfect during any preview period, let alone the first. Previews are for making changes. Audiences expect that.
  • Also, Eileen should know that cancelling a preview = bad press. And for someone so stressed out about Bombshell’s press, she shouldn’t be advocating for a live date.
  • In more bad decisions, Eileen wants to keep the nudity in Bombshell to sell tickets. Remember all those articles about the nudity in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? How’d that do for ticket sales?
  • “We sold more tickets to the show this morning than we did the whole of last week,” says Eileen. She somehow thinks that has to do with Ivy’s nudity. It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that YOUR INVITED DRESS WAS LAST NIGHT AND PEOPLE ARE FINALLY TALKING ABOUT THE SHOW?!?
  • Richard Francis is coming to the Hit List stumble-through. Journalism, at its most credible!
  • Ivy says she’s comfortable with nudity because she did Hair. Ivy Lynn in Hair? No.
  • Eileen tries to talk Ivy into doing nudity. “I thought it emphasized Marilyn’s vulnerability – it was shocking and real,” she says to Ivy. Um… no you didn’t. You thought it sold tickets.
  • Derek is struggling to find a connection to Hit List. “When Michael Swift and I ended things,” Julia tells him, “I saw the show more clearly than I ever had. Free from any distractions that had happened before.” That’s not what happened, Julia. You didn’t see the show clearly until you worked with a dramaturg. What is with all these characters rewriting history?
  •  Derek tells everyone his idea of starting Hit List at the end, like Sunset Boulevard or All About Eve. “Won’t that spoil the ending?” Kyle asks, as if this is a completely new concept to him. Minus 200 because obviously Kyle would be obsessed with Merrily We Roll Along.
  • Jimmy thinks “Broadway Here I Come” won’t feel like Karen’s character’s song if Ana’s character sings it first. Did he forget this is a flashforward? Technically, Karen’s character does sing it first. And the Diva character is copying her! Doesn’t that fit in better with your whole theme?
  • Why is everyone acting like its this difficult to load in this plane set? It really doesn’t look that hard.
  • Derek once again reminds Jimmy that he left Broadway to do Hit List. Sure, we’d like to see Jimmy show some gratitude towards Derek. But no one held a gun to your head here, Derek. You can’t get pissed at someone else for your choices.
  • “This is my first show as Artistic Director of Manhattan Theater Workshop,” Scott barks. “I took the biggest risk here!” Um… since when is this Scott’s first show as Artistic Director? Did we miss that? We thought he was long established here.
  • Jimmy and Karen both think Derek is making these changes to punish them, because he’s jealous. That excuse went out that door in high school guys.
  • Jimmy basically calls Kyle on the fact that he’s in love with him. Which is a really shitty thing to do to your best friend. Then again, this whole “gay guy in love with a straight guy” is a really shitty plot point. So hopefully that’s over with now.
  • Sam tells Ivy, “If you Google Sam Strickland, do you know the first thing that comes up?” referring to his nudity in Take Me Out. We know that if you Google any actor, the first that comes up is “<actor’s name> gay.”
  • “I think you’ll like what you see,” Derek tells Richard at the special Hit List run-through for The New York Times. Again, shows don’t do specific run-throughs for news publications. Let alone tailor their creative decisions to please one person. This. Would. Never. Happen.
  • Julia gives Tom an idea on how to fix the problem with making the 15 minute intermission. It involves switching “Public Relations” to the second song in Act II, so they have time to set up for the plane, and starting “Dig Deep” in the audience. It’s not a bad idea. But since when did Julia become Diane Paulus?
  • Also, why is Tom choreographing this new number? Doesn’t he have a choreographer? Or is he supposed to be composer, director, and choreographer? Minus 10.
  • Ugh. Of all the Bombshell numbers we wanted to see performed again, “Dig Deep” certainly wasn’t one of them.
  • So you’re telling us 12 seats in the orchestra are going to be held for every show so the cast can perform one number at the top of Act II? No. That would never happen.
  • “Did you give me the part of Marilyn because of my talent or because you wanted to sleep with me?” Karen asks Derek. Have you not been paying attention, Karen? HE TRIED TO FUCK YOU IN THE PILOT!
  • “After the show’s over, I don’t think we should work together,” Karen tells Derek. Great idea, Karen Cartwright. Burn the only bridge you have in this industry.
  • Julian Ovenden is doing the worst JFK impersonation we’ve ever seen.
  • Once again, the audience gasps when Ivy drops the sheet. THE NAKED BODY IS NOT THAT SCARY.
  • Sam quits Bombshell because he has been in seven Broadway shows, had a featured role in a national tour, and now he’s a swing, which he considers a step down. First of all, it was your choice to leave The Book Of Mormon tour. Secondly, that’s the business you signed up for. This happens to actors all the time. Yeah, being a swing is a lot of work for not a lot of recognition, but it’s still a job on Broadway.
  • The stage door for the Lyceum is actually in the back of the theatre, on 46th Street. Minus 10.
  • Sorry, but the folks at that stage door were not nearly as enthusiastic as they would be.
  • Tom Google searches the words “Broadway,” “Bombshell,” “Preview,” “Wednesday.” Um… Tom. It’s the first preview. Pretty sure you don’t need that “Wednesday” in there.
  • The New York Times article says, “First-time writers Jimmy Collins and Kyle Bishop have collaborated on Hit List, an edgy, occasionally brilliant and topical new rock musical, bound to take this theater season by storm when it opens in three weeks.” Not from what we’ve seen. Then again, this is the type of show that theater types would use to fool themselves into thinking they are edgy. Like Murder Ballad or something.
  • That article also refers to Karen Cartwright as luminous. Have you been taking Jimmy’s drugs, Richard?
  • Here’s the thing about that article. We like the points it brought up about the similarities between Hit List and Bombshell, but there was a lot of opinion and gossip in it for a preview article. We don’t think the New York Times would print something like that. That’s more of a Post article.
  • Also, calling Hit List the future of Broadway sounds like SMASH is shitting on Shaiman and Wittman and we don’t approve of that. You want to shit on Theresa Rebeck? Fine. But leave Shaiman and Wittman out of it!
  • “You were in tech,” Julia tells Tom as her explanation for why she was helping Scott with Hit List. Enough with “in tech” being used as an excuse for everything.
  • Minus 10 for Tom drinking that martini and not throwing it in Julia’s face.
  • Eileen breaks up with Richard for the Hit List article. He’s a journalist, Eileen! You can’t expect him to be partial!
  • Ana flirts with Jimmy’s drug dealer friend, Adam, outside. We’re all for flirting with strangers, but you don’t do it with creepy guys you meet on the street.

So are any of you still watching this show? Anyone? Let us know in the comments!

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About DAVE Q 90 Articles
NineDaves is a part-time blogger, full-time tweeter, and all-around television-addict who spends way too much time thinking about what his Real Housewives’ opening quote will be. He’s so obsessed with TV, he’s basically like that kid from Willy Wonka. Only gayer.