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What is the opposite of Anyong?

Or, Fade in on a Chirl eileen_goodbye copy

Or, How I Learned to Stop Nitpicking and Love the Bombshell

And now the story of an (apparently) wealthy band of theatermakers and the one audience who had no choice but to keep them all together. It’s New Musical Development.

Well, folks, our long, national nightmare has begun. The 11 o’clock number has been sung, the audience is hastening back to their Times Square hotel rooms to upload their bootleg videos to YouTube, the lithe dancers are at home soaking their feet in Epsom salts and watching the DVR’d episode of SVU that their roommate guested on, the ghostlight is all that remains on stage. Show’s over. Smash is done.

Oh, the emotional roller coaster I’ve ridden with this show. I’ve loved it, I’ve hated it, I’ve wrestled with it in a fountain, I’ve murdered it in Moldovia, I’ve acted out entire episodes in my living room. It is the greatest relationship of my life. (Don’t tell my boyfriend.)

It was an often preposterous, maddeningly under-realized, half-baked mess, true. But it was also one of the most strangely electrifying, uniquely galvanizing television shows I’ve ever watched. And that’s why I’ve gathered you all here today.

I think the story of Smash, like the story of Marilyn herself, is a tale of redemption that comes just a hare’s breath too late.  (Although wouldn’t hare’s have longer breaths, considering they’re always running races against tortoises and whatnot? Ugh, cardio. The worst.) Admittedly the first season was a strange mix of All About Eve, All That Jazz and transcripts of Theresa Rebeck’s therapy sessions. But Season 2 really showed some growth. I think, in the end, Smash realized what it was really about: three women–Eileen, Ivy and Julia–who had been counted out, walked over and constantly diminished by the grotesque men in their lives, fighting for their right to joy and finally being recognized for their talents. Smash is about strivers; theatre is about strivers. And more often than not the striving is in vain. But not this time.  At long last, all three women got what everyone really wants out of life: a boyfriend and a Tony. (And don’t tell me you have bigger goals than that because there’s no such thing.)

It was strangely indicative of Smash’s perplexing relationship with female empowerment that Eileen, upon winning a Tony, forgoes giving a speech and instead uses her time to summon Derek to the stage and squee. I mean, I know this woman’s primary forms of communication are thrown martinis and swiveled bobs, but really. Four lines of dialogue was too much to ask?

It was, however, a Broadway fanchirl dream to see Megan Hilty give the Tony speech that she (she meaning I) will eventually give.

Christine Ebersole still has no idea who you are.

 I felt bad for her for a bit—standing on that stage holding an award she’s not yet won–but I realized that she’s got TV money now, and a ton of recordings and while NBC may be less profitable than a banana stand right now, a paycheck is a paycheck, even moreso when its attached to a multiplatform distribution contract. So, good for you, Hilty! Good for you!

But, in general, the whole Tony plot was just more Smash tomfoolery.  The nominees for best actress are Ivy, Karen, Audra McDonald, Sutton Foster and someone I’m too lazy to remember. But it doesn’t matter because there’s no way that Karen or Ivy is going to beat Audra McDonald. I mean, I love Ivy Lynn, but come one. Audra McDonald is a 5-time Tony winner. She heaves an especially dramatic sigh and the Tony committee sits up a little straighter. She is the Meryl Streep of winning Tonys (WHY HAS SHE NOT BEEN CAST IN THE INTO THE WOODS MOVIE YET? Did you see her performance of “Any Moment” in concert?). I have no idea what House of Flowers, the fake musical she’s nominated for, could possibly be about, but I’ve been hounding my LincTix rep for pre-sale to it all day (because it’s being put up at the Mitzi E. Newhouse, obvi).

And Ivy beats Sutton Foster, too? The original Ronnie Moore? (Or is Ronnie supposed to be Audra? Because Karen is Sutton. Although Smash had the temerity to compare the scheming backup dancer-cum-Diva to Sutton’s rise in Thoroughly Modern Millie–a moment in which I had to excuse myself whilst I angrily drank a cup of Earl Grey in the sitting room. Sutton would never sleep with Derek Wills for a part. Although, fun fact, Sutton was married for a stretch to Christian Borle, whose sexuality remains in question. By me.) ANYWAY, Audra has only lost to to Heather Hedley (OH! Maybe Heather’s Ronnie Moore!) and Christine Ebersole (who is probably not Ronnie Moore), while Sutton has lost thrice (most recently for Shrek, so…) but the one-two punch knocks Ivy completely out of contention.

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Guys! What am I going to do now? This compendium of Broadway trivia that I call my brain is useless on every other television show. You can only yell out lyrics from Camelot during Game of Thrones but so many times before bitches start disinviting you to their houses.

Smash is the greatest Broadway fan-fiction ever composed (outside of whatever it says on the back of my headshot.) It exists in a place where a busboy with no social security number can have a hit on Broadway in less than a year. Where you can just wear angels wings and body glitter in public (without people thinking you just stumbled home from Limelight in 1997). Where Bernadette Peters’ doppelgänger won a Tony for Annie Get Your Gun but plays Mama Rose in real life. Where Anika Noni Rose stars in a musical version of Imitation of Life that is already my favorite thing ever. Where Purlie and The Wiz can enjoy successful revivals. Where Lin-Manuel Miranda is a deliciously gossipy bitch and Christine Ebersole has problems reading a list of 5 names.

It’s a place where theater matters so much that its absurd. Where the medium is thriving and original and bursting with new life. Where corporate money and jukebox musicals aren’t de riguer. Where the Tony producers will let you change your number at the last minute if you have a good reason, like Justice. Where talented singers and dancers can afford lofts that would make Felicity jealous. This place is real. It has a name. This place is called my heart.

I know it’s not realistic. I work in theatre. I work for a multi-billion dollar theatre company. I know what it’s like. But Smash is theatre how I always imagined it. How I dreamt it would be when I was a young, fresh faced thoroughly modern nellie and not the dried up harridan I am now. It’s how I will always see my life in theatre: ridiculous and wild and far more convenient than anything else and drama-filled, girl, and lovingly orchestrated and lazily plotted under the guiding hand of Grace Adler.

Speaking of Grace Adler, though… We have to have one last conversation about the homosexuals on this show. How a show about BROADWAY isn’t literally overrun with grand-jete-ing queens like the sidewalk outside of Marie’s Crisis after last call is beyond me.  And what few gays there were were a sad bunch indeed.  Every gay character on this show was a cipher, a sycophant, a simp or a psychopath. This is not a criticism. In fact, I wish every show on television was about crazy, scheming gays. I wish The Good Wife was an adaptation of The Birdcage where Nathan Lane had to convince a bigoted politician that he was actually a charming hausfrau every week. This is, incidentally, also the plot of the children’s television show that Mrs. Doubtfire ended up hosting at the end of the movie. And one wonders why the CW went out of business.

But, for real for real, the treatment of gay characters on this show was abhorrent. Maybe I’m oversensitive (of course I’m oversensitive. I’m an artist. I’m just a pile of feelings with eyes. I have a masters degree in Generalized Overblown Emotion).

NOPE.

I don’t buy for a second, however, that everyone loved the saintly dearly departed Kyle or that he managed to posthumuously pry that Tony from Harvey Fierstein’s cold, limp hands. Kyle was a writer who had an abundance of index cards but no discernible writing. Kyle was supposed to be a fan, a receptacle not a creator, a blank slate reflecting the glow of the klieg lights. And I’m not talking some Isherwood “I am a camera”-type vessel; I’m talking undeveloped photo paper: shiny and white and empty.

Which is why it’s even more preposterous to me that Tom (TOM!) claimed to have really liked him. Tom didn’t even know Kyle’s last name. Tom came sauntering into the last place on Earth looking for some impressionable twink to make him feel like he wasn’t an aging queen who’s career was stalling and whose hag was moving on and he found Kyle. They were fuck buddies. And that’s totally cool. But don’t try to tell me they found love in a hopeless place. Tom is a flat, directionless character and probably a selfish lover.

I don’t hate Kyle or Tom. I just wish the show hadn’t tried to pretend that they mattered, that Tom’s ambitions mattered, that Tom wasn’t just a leech sucking the lifeblood out of his partnership with Julia, that Kyle wasn’t just a barnacle that hitched a ride on Jimmy’s cruise ship of fabulous Joe Iconis songs and ambiguous drugs. But whatever, now that the show is over Kyle and Tom are free to pursue their true destiny: forming a boyband with Mitchell from Modern Family called One Dimension

Conversely, I did like that Smash realized, a bit too late, that Karen Cartwright, at least as portrayed by Katherine McPhee, is a tertiary character at best.  Karen never really mattered as more than a foil or a function of the ever-convoluted plot. And Katherine McPhee didn’t do the material any favors.  Still, while Smash revealed that Katherine McPhee as an actress has all the depth of a dusty glint of light in an artfully distressed Brooklyn apartment, it was also a welcome showcase for her truly lovely voice and serviceable dancing skills. She was blown off the screen by Hurricane Hilty so much that FEMA got its own trailer on set, but alone or in a duet with Jeremy Jordan, she more than held her own. It’s a welcome reminder of a time when the voices didn’t need autotune to be bearable and American Idol’s primary export was singers, and not the discarded snatched weaves of money-hungry pop stars.

In another world, Karen is played by Anna Kendrick with a voraciousness and duplicity that rivals Eve Harrington and Hilty’s Ivy is only asked to be put-upon and noble and human. That is the story worthy of the talents behind this series. For as it stands now, Smash is an ensemble with no center and no villain, just a rotating set of allegiances and a couple of spoken word recitations of “Your Fault”. They’re so nice. They’re not good, they’re not bad, they’re just nice. I’m not good, I’m not nice, I’m just right: Smash was weakened by its refusal to turn against anyone.

Guys, I know what I’m talking about. I make coffee in a Chemex and have multicolored flash cards: I’m a dramaturg.

And don’t tell me Ellis was the villain because I’ll shout you down. Ellis had no agency whatsoever. And don’t tell me Jerry is the villain; Jerry is a collection of dry cleaning bills and a Dabney Coleman impression. All these flawed characters needed something, someone to bounce off, to be exploited by, to fall in love with for all the wrong reasons, to be pushed down an elevator shaft by. If we’ve learned anything from Showgirls (and we’ve learned everything from Showgirls) it’s that somebody has got to toss the marbles across the floor.

Ah, but none of that matters now.  Well-drawn or not, that’s the end of these characters, at least until Ivy and Derek’s lovechild grows up, forms a ukulele band with her sister, Baby June, and invites us all to contribute to their vanity music video on Kickstarter, or whatever celebrity anustarts are using to fleece the public that week.

But for now, we’re left alone. Separate and alone. You can have the garden, it’s yours. For this is the end. But only as much as Into the Woods ends at Intermission. It always seems like the most magical, improbable and spectacular shows come to an end too quickly and with far too quiet a fanfare. Smash, Pushing Daisies, Arrested Development (maeby). I’m sure I’ll find something else to write about, but nothing on TV excites me as much as this show does. True, I watch Scandal with the same breathless devotion that an end-of-days cult watches the skies, but it’s not the same. It’s not as ridiculous, as heartfelt, as much the stuff of dreams.

So this is the end. But the beautiful thing about Smash is that it reminds me that the same truth that makes theater the most magical art form can apply to television. Every moment–extraordinary, breath-taking, boring, confounding–exists for just a flash and then evanesces. But it lives on in us forever.

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Smash

No Mo’ Drama!

Hey guys, do you remember that time Debra Messing was a cast member on Smash? Sure you do! She dressed like she was playing the Witch in a community theater production of Into the Woods that was set in modern day Seattle. She had a son and a husband, both of which were figments of a long national nightmare. She played a semi-broken harridan, hell-bent on destroying anything she ever created like some Upper East Side Medea. Good times! So glad that’s over.

I've been reading a book by Gloria Steinem. Oops, sorry, not reading--I meant burning.

I’ve been reading a book by Gloria Steinem. Oops, sorry, not reading–I meant burning.

Now she’s co-starring in a new romantic comedy called “No Mo’ Drama(turg)” about the blossoming love affair between a handsome “multicultural” maverick and a priggish librarian named Marion.

Librarian or playwright?! I am SO CONFUSED!

What’s that? Oh excuse me, she’s actually portraying a playwright named Julia. Librarians have hats; writers have glasses.

Anyway, No Mo’ Drama is airing mini-sodes during regular episodes of the newly revamped television show Smash (you’re going to love it! It’s like if Felicity went to Tisch!).

For real, though, separating Julia from the action was the best thing that could ever have happened to her. I mean, when we first glimpsed her this season she was sequestered to Tom’s couch, chewing her own hair. Then, apparently, it became an important plot point that she had forgotten to write any actual words for Bombshell. That’s what happens when you go to the Phillip Glass retrospective at Lincoln Center; shit gets in your brain.

And so it was with some trepidation that I approached the dramaturg subplot in the last two episodes, because I felt like it was going to be even more Julia-bashing. Turns out, surprise surprise, it’s actually just You’ve Got Mail but with nerds! As with any romcom, however, the protagonists have to start out hating each other. Julia and Tom’s reaction to this hot-ass dramaturg is patently ridiculous. Hillary Clinton looked like she was having more fun at the Bengazi hearings than these two did.

Pictured (l to r) Eileen, Eileen's bangs, the Dramaturg, the dramaturg's pecs, JHud, JHud's Coretta Scott King wig, SOMEONE WITH NO FACE, Julia, Tom, Ann Harada.

Pictured (l to r) Eileen, Eileen’s bangs, the Dramaturg, the dramaturg’s pecs, JHud, JHud’s Coretta Scott King wig, SOMEONE WITH NO FACE, Julia, Tom, Ann Harada.

And the characterization of this guy didn’t help. Apparently, you can tell he’s a dramaturg because he uses pour-over coffee like some hipster asshat and has piles of books just sitting on tables around his apartment. He’s essentially me with a massively better hairline.

SMoving on! He spends the better part of the first episode just pede-conferencing around Times Square arguing with Julia like they’re a couple of tourists from Iowa looking for Guy’s American Kitchen. My favorite part of that whole scene was how Julia tries to defend her choices using some sort of hackneyed, secondwave feminism-lite and it’s ABSOLUTELY just Imagined Theresa Rebeck lip-syncing for her life. Sashay away with your domestic troubles, ma’am. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Julia (Debra Messing) and The Dramaturg (Daniel Sunjata) inexplicably fight in Times Square.

Apparently the Empire State Building and Central Park were booked.

Things do, I must say, take a turn for the better after the Times Square debacle. The Dramaturg (he has a name, I’m sure of it, but I can’t be bothered to learn it–I have a day job, dammit!) convinces Julia to write a new scene for the musical. It’s fine, I guess, although I was confused about why it was a scene between Marilyn and Mark Wahlberg from The Departed. But whatever, I love that movie.

I have to say, though, I’m glad that the most recent ep pushed the writing and such to the backseat and brought the romance to the fore because I don’t care about the dramaturg subplot. I am truly ambivalent about whether Bombshell is good or not; all I really care about is seeing attractive people kiss and be happy.

What Bombshell needs is a locker room shower scene.

What Bombshell needs is a locker room shower scene.

Which is not to say the dramaturgs or dramaturgy aren’t attractive.

My friend James called Daniel Sunjata the second best looking dramaturg he’s ever seen. And I believe it. Smart is sexy. And you know what’s even sexier? Telling me what the hell is wrong with Act 3.

Not knowing who James was talking about, I immediately wanted to text him and be like, “Dish! Spill! Imperative noun/verb colloquialism.” But I’ve been taking my meds lately so I restrained myself.

Instead, I started making a list of my own. I know a quite few very attractive d’turgs!  (I’m looking at you, Jeremy Stoller.) And, also, one very handsome sommelier. Which is neither here nor there but I included him because when am I ever going to make a list if attractive sommeliers based on an episode of Smash? (Answer: probably next week. Anything is possible on this show)

Oh! That reminds me. Skittle me this: The one sommelier I know always looks impeccable but always needs a manicure, which is strange because the focus of their profession is on their hands. (I’m sure a som would say the focus is on their minds and their mouths but this is a family blog and I don’t truck in that kind of saucy talk.) So the focus is on their hands. Sommeliers are like sign language interpreters for people who find it hard to communicate without a few drinks.

ANYWAY, back to dramaturgy. Another reason that I’m ambivalent about their process is that it seems to involve absolutely no research or actual textual analysis, but rather just banter and yelling, but WHATEVER. I will say, though, that if you change all the names in Hedda Gabler, as was The Dramaturg’s brilliant exercise for his acting class (why is he teaching an acting class, but WHATEVER), it’s, uh, still going to OBVIOUSLY be Hedda Gabler to anyone who went to 9th grade.

But… actually… now that I think about it (I try not to put any thought into what I say before saying it; that’s my processHedda Gabler kind of works as an episode of Damages.

Is the hot dramaturg a genius?!

Omigod my mind is blown. Someone bring me my smelling scarves!

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Happy Black History Smonth!

Oh, it’s been so long since we last had a Smash! (That’s what she said!) The last time Smash came on TV was forever ago! An asteroid hadn’t hit the Earth! And I had yet to sell my soul to Robin Wright’s bangs on House of Cards. It’s a different world, Dwayne Wayne.

Previously on Smash: new show runner Josh Safran showed up and was all like “Last season didn’t happen, okay? We burned a scarf, spat on its grave, and lined up so many buses to throw Theresa Rebeck under you would’ve thought it was a student matinee. We’re different!”

And it’s true.

Smash is so different in fact that this episode opens with a scene from Queer as Folk. Karen is…yawn. Sorry. Karen is being held aloft by what looks to be a mass of gyrating and jump-dancing homosexuals. Pop quiz: Is this is A) Limelight during my freshman year of college (I’m 31, do your own damn math) B) Boys Night Out at Fuerza Bruta (motto: look up… so it’s harder to identify who groped you), or C) the bouncy castle as my son’s Christening (what? I don’t have any straight friends and a petting zoo seemed a little Catholic)?

Hands up if you like Mackelmore and Jager bombs!

Hands up if you like Mackelmore and Jager bombs!

Anywhoozles, this scene is a blah blah dream sequence blah blah Mean Jeremy Jordan zzzzz subplot of intrigue.

Guys, I really wanted to write about Karen this week. I did!  I have so many thoughts about her and about Katherine McPhee (who really hits the riffs in this song snippet with a wallop; that girl should try out for a television singing competition or something). But, listen, I was already sick of her by the time the sexy new credit sequence hit. (That I WILL address that at some point, but suffice to say it was the most enjoyable grand mal seizure I’ve ever had).

Too bad, so sad, Karen. Maybe next episode. (If every other character suddenly dies like this is Downton Abbey or something).

We can however, take a second—Hallelujah—to talk about the triumphant return—Praise your name, Lord—of the only thing keeping this ship sailing (and the only black person any of them know—and yes, I am aware of Tom’s “boyfriend” and no I don’t care). JHUD returns!

And what a return! She’s introduced in a HUGE apartment over-looking Central Park that on most shows signifies that the owner or resident is a mogul of some sort or Patty Hewes or Buzz Aldrin in that one episode of 30 Rock. But, this is Smash-world, which means that someone with a 1999 Audra McDonald level of fame and accomplishment  can totally afford it, too! No (110 in the) shade to Ms. McDonald, but I mean come on. CPWVeronica Chase is supposed to be a 29-year-old Broadway darling, not Alicia Keys. You know in real life she’d still be propped up in a sublet in Brooklyn, selling real estate on weekends.

Smoving on! JHUD is singing! (Because the writers of Smash know which side of the bread their bread is buttered on… what’s that phrase? Where their bread butter comes from? Who brings the boys to the milkyard? Where the dogs got let out from whence? I don’t know.)  ANYWAY, JHUD is singing “Soon As I Get Home” from The Wiz! I’m just going to give you a moment to compose yourself.

Ready?

AAAAGH JHUD in all-white singing the second best song from The Wiz!  Have I died? Am I deceased? Is this my funeral? Because these things are clearly stipulated in my living will? Am I in E. Lynn Heaven?

Jennifer Hudson and her hair

Unbe-weave-able.

It is glorious.

I must admit, however, I’m pulled out of the moment by her Coretta Scott King weave. I know it’s Black History Month, but I am 100% not here for that His Girl Friday cinnamon bun swirl.

Speaking of black hair, I’ve got to go work on my new Good Times-meets-Dark & Lovely drag character, Madame J.J. Walker. I was going to go on and on about, ::cue dramatic music:: THE DRAMATURG, but that’ll have to wait til tomorrow.

Happy Black History Smonth!

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Musical Notes: Episode 1

Okay.  I might start crying at a few points over the next few paragraphs.  I fucking love the music on Smash.  This is completely unabashed.  There are no abashes here.  Unlike the way I feel about the music on Glee or about my kids, my love for the music on Smash is unconditional.  There.  I said it.

True, I could probs go the rest of my life without hearing “20th Century Fox Mambo” and I imagine when “History Is Made At Night” begins at the inevitable Broadway production (or the production put together in my living room by 6 of my gay friends–everyone is Marilyn), I’ll use that opportunity to find the bathroom. But if you try to tell me that “Let Me Be Your Star” isn’t one of the greatest, most well-constructed musical theater songs of the last decade I will shout you down. I will shout you down like I’m Thaddeus Stevens on the floor of Congress.  What I’m saying, basically, is if you don’t like the music on Smashyou’re racist.

Tommy Lee makes a passionate case for the Hilty Marilyn... and the abolition of slavery, or whatever.

Tommy Lee makes a passionate case for the Hilty Marilyn… and the abolition of slavery, or whatever.

Truth: when I lost my job last year, I listened to “Don’t Forget Me” on repeat for DAYS.  Wandering the streets like Fantine, mouthing the words, raising my arms like Evita.  I put it on my resume.  Not even, like, under special skills.  Like “Here are some lyrics that I feel represent where I am in life right now.”  I highly recommend this as a form of self care.

Legit, Shaiman and Whitman are phenomenal and their songs lifted the sometimes rocky, always ridiculous first season of America’s favorite hour of theater-related television to an impressive level.  The other songs… not so much. Two words: “Redneck Woman”.  That said, I downloaded “I’m Going Down” and “Cheers (I’ll Drink To That)” with a quickness, and, honestly, the latter took place in the single most inexcusably absurd moments in the whole season.

ANYWAY, Season 2 started off on a particularly high note. (see what I did there? I have a degree in English.)

“Cut, Print, Moving On”

Bomb or Bombshell?  Definitely a Bombshell.  But one of fairly little consequence, like Jessica Biel.  Or Jessica Alba.  Or Jessica Tandy.  It’s a whiff, a fleeting aroma; a palate cleanser.  The lyrics work harder than the music, but it does it’s job as a transition song.

I’m guessing that it’s the second act opener and McPhee is giving me hardcore “Thank Goodness” stylings, which is saying something.  I don’t like to come down one way or another in the Who’s Your Marilyn debate, but I think it’s fair to say that Hilty is the better belter and on Broadway, belter’s rule. This song isn’t in McPhee’s wheelhouse, but she sells it to me.

“Mama Makes Three”

Bomb or Bombshell? As you might have guessed from my earlier post this song is EVERYTHING I need it to be!  It’s perfect.  It’s a fantastic song for JHud’s voice, it falls into the grand tradition of Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Smokey Joe’s, it devolves into gospel reverie that could LITERALLY GO ON FOREVER for all I care.

What’s also great about this song is that it tells a story with music and lyrics that are equally clever.  It doesn’t have the burden of doing a lot of Smash-related plot development; it just has to be amazing.  Hilty can take it to church (though, strangely, it was McPhee who actually sang at the church, but whatever), still this show has been missing this level of sass.  LOVED it.

“On Broadway”

Bomb or Bombshell? Hudson hits it out of the park again!  Plus, we get an American Idol reunion (P. to the S., bring on Kelly Clarkson and I will literally wet my pants.)  At first I thought that McPhee was going to be stuck backing JHud up the entire time, which I was totally fine with as JHud was devouring notes and snatches weaves from jump.  That said, it was nice to see Katherine get her “Michelle Williams” moment to shine before being eclipsed once again.

“Don’t Dream It’s Over”

Bomb or Bombshell? I kind of want to say Bomb…ish. Yo, dawg, I love Hilty to bits, but I forgot this song was even on the episode.  It just didn’t do it for me, dawg.  I’m pretty sure I used this montage as an opportunity to get another gallon of ice cream. Plus, I’m really tired of sad Ivy. What purpose is making her miserable serving dramatically?

That said, I think it definitely does it’s job, plot-wise.  Plus, I like that Ivy is singing it at an audition.  So points for song choice.

“Broadway Here I Come”

Bomb or Bombshell? Well, Bomb in that it exploded my ovaries.  Bombshell in that it’s an awesome song, sumptuously sung by Jeremy Jordan.  I’m totally conflicted about his character (and by conflicted I mean I hate the character and want nothing but terrible things to befall him) but this song, this song I’m in love with.  It does such a good job in the plot/character development department, though I am not in love with the fact that it turns Karen into a crazy stalker. Is this the only song in New York?  Really?  And are people calling up Rob Marshall at 4 a.m. going “Listen to 3 bars of this song played on an upright piano in a room with terrible acoustics! Should I reserve the St. James right now or do you want to do that?”  Whatever, Smash; at least you’re pretty.

(Notes on the second half of the episode here.)

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Smash

Was Jenifer Lewis Unavailable?

I would like to now have a symposium about the scene that introduces JHud to Smash and changes everything on Earth for the better.  I am unabashedly a Jennifer Hudson stan from wayback.  I love every damn thing about her.  Every damn thing.  I’m obsessed with Beyonce in a seriously unhealthy way but, magically, there’s a place in my heart that even King B can’t touch.  And in that place JHud lives. Dammit, I’m already digressing.

Anyway, JHud’s character, who probably has a name (Veronica sounds about right, but who cares?  Her name is JHud. Why are we still discussing this?), is introduced singing a huge showstopper from what is supposed to be the Big Broadway SMusical, a concoction called Beautiful… which… is… everything.

Smash 201 Jennifer Hudson

Category is “Everything”. Tens across the board.

Oh, so much!  Here’s 4 things.

1. Apparently it’s set in the 50s and focuses on a singer who has an over-bearing mother.  The actress playing this role is giving hardcore Melba Moore realness, strutting around and pulling all manner of sidelong glances and disapproving lip purses, but I can’t help but miss Jenifer Lewis, star of Jackie’s Back and the resident expert on playing Black Women of  a Certain Age Who Ain’t Got Time For Your Shit.

You might also remember her from What’s Love Got To Do With It  as Tina Turner’s mother (Who Ain’t Got Time For Ike’s Shit), Nora’s Hair Salon as Nora (Who Ain’t Got Time For Your Shitty Weave) or The Princess and the Frog as Mama Odie (Who Ain’t Got Time For No Voodoo Shit).  Anyway, JLew was busy playing an angry receptionist or mean auntie in a Madea movie because the actress playing JHud’s mama in this musical is not her.  But she’s fine.  Smoving on.

2. The song is really quite good, as most of the original songs on Smash are.  There are about 15, 20 Equity dancers in zoot suits and dapper chapeaus flipping, jumping and jiving all over the stage in a way that is positively exhausting.  And then, right in the center, is JHud, hip popped like “I dare you to suggest some choreography.”

I LOVE that she comes from the Mariah Carey school of divas, where the motto engraved above the Aretha Franklin Student Center and Black Box Theater is “If you’re looking for a dancer; you should probably call Alvin Ailey.”

Aretha Franklin works out.

“Miss Franklin is going to need a break to rest after this, thanks.”

These ladies show up, stand up, sing and sit down.  They might give you a hand gesture, but none of that Celine Dion Expressive Stewardess shit.  That costs extra.  

3. Smidway through the song I thought to myself, I’d see this show.  Which is insane because I have no idea what it’s about, how far into the plot this song comes, whether it’s available on TKTS, or who the male lead is (probably Joshua Henry or Brandon Victor Dixon, but what if they make some janky stunt casting choice like when they had Ashanti do The Wiz and it was all I could not to run on stage at the City Center and beat her to a pulp with the lifeless body of her career?  What then?)

Ashanti & the Yellow Brick Road at City Center. :-(

Ashanti & the Yellow Brick Road at City Center. 😦

The poster for this Big Broadway Smusical is so strange to me: it’s just JHud’s HUGE BEAUTIFUL FACE and the word “Beautiful”. Which, now that I think about it, may not even be the name of the show.  It could be a quote from the Times–Isherwood has been especially effusive lately.

It could be the way that you spell Veronica in Smash-world, a crazy mixed up Seussical where Bernadette Peters doesn’t exist, audiences react with stunned silence when the lead dies at the end of an biographical musical about a PERSON WHO IS ALREADY DEAD, and a Broadway veteran who ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE Marilyn Monroe and sings like GD Megan Hilty has to fight for the part of Marilyn against a girl who got off the train from Iowa four minutes ago and was like three minutes away from being sold into White Slavery like that one episode of SVU.  That episode was sad.

Or, it could be just a description of the God’s Honest Truth, Okay?  Anyway, it says Beautiful and I say, “Do you have a Rush Ticket policy?”  Cuz you know I ain’t got no money.

4. There’s a scene, after the musical number, in JHud’s dressing room.  She’s removed her wig to reveal a weave that is so far up her forehead I have no choice but to deem it a Solange.  What is happening here?  Minutes ago she looked perfectly normal, now she’s giving me Myrtle, The Woman Whose Bangs Ran Away From Her Eyebrows.  (That’s a thing that can happen.  I read it.)  ANYWAY.  That’s not even the point.  The point is, after she delivers Katherine McPhee some sage advice whilst applying eye makeup (as you do), she exits the dressing room into a sea of exploding flash bulbs, telling McPhee “Get ready, this will be you soon.”

Question: Who is taking these pictures?  And why do they make flash sounds?  Clearly she is walking into a throng of ladies and gays who have travelled all the way to New York by BUS, singing in harmony from Wicked the entire time (Dreamgirls if they’re black. Into the Woods if they want to be my best friends ever) and they are using their iPhones to take pictures. So whence the flash noises?  Maybe that’s the stage door that leads to a whole in the time space continuum. I mean, it makes sense. She says in the scene prior that she’s about to star in The Wiz and I know from the previews that at some point this season she’s going to sing the signature song from Purlie: clearly nothing of import has happened in Black Musical Theater since 1979.

I wonder if Tyler Perry can sing.

Dancing’s gonna cost you extra, though.

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Smash

Paging Salome

Can I just start off by noting how refreshing it is to see Debra Messing’s Julia freed from her crazy woman schmata in Season 2 of Smash?  Last season she was drowning in shrouds and ponchos and bangles and scarves and oversized glasses (we get it: you’re a middle-aged woman who writes for a living. Your vision is poor. Let’s.  Move. On.  We get 44 precious Sminutes a week and you’re spending a half hour fumbling with your eyewear?  I digress.).

Julia (Debra Messing) is delighted because her back is to the mirror.

No one has ever looked this happy in The Shroud of Turin before.

We all know that she was the stand-in for former showrunner and noted accessory aficionado Theresa Rebeck, but by the time Bombshell finally opened in Boston, all of Julia’s lines were being delivered by a pile of wrinkled pashminas.

Theresa Rebeck's collection of scarves.

Theresa Rebeck won a Special Tony for dramatic scarf-swooshing

Worry not, though: new showrunner Josh Safran has banished the scarves, the loose-knit sweaters, the capes!  I imagine it was sort of like the end of The Wiz where Luther Vandross starts singing and all the black people get weirdly semi-naked and you’re watching it for the billionth time at your cousin Poochie’s house and you’re 9 years-old and you’re stealing side-long glances at your Aunt Beneatha, thinking, I feel like the pastor would not approve of this, but she’s just happily humming along because Luther Vandross is a saint and black nudity wasn’t a big deal in the 70s you guess…

INAPPROPRIATE.

INAPPROPRIATE.

ANYWAY, it’s nice to see the stunning D.Mess look stunning and not so much like the Bird Lady from Home Alone 2.  Smoving on.

Okay. Wait. That Bird Lady comparison was weak and imprecise. I’m pulling down the “No Shade” shade here, okay?

No Shade but Season 1 Julia actually dresses just like the one and only Meryl Streep. It’s like they’re the only two social pariahs frequenting  the most annoying boutique on the UES.  No, they don’t shop; they dither. Smeryl may be the best actress to ever live but she’s also that kooky lady who holds up the line at Ten Thousand Villages telling an incomprehensible story about some janky necklace whilst digging in her purse for her clownishly large glasses.

We get it: you cannot see, you’re obsessed with draping fabrics and your spirit animal is Nancy Meyers. Smoving on!

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