2013

The Shizznittle-Bam-Snip-Snap-Snap: A Year in Pictures

Oh, if life were made of moments, even now and then a bad one…

I have no idea what happened this year. I really don’t. I re-read all the entries in this blog earlier tonight and I thought, What? When did I do all this stuff? I went to an awards show? I got engaged to a doctor? Really! Also, I’m a complete lunatic. Why do I put this stuff on the internet?Jennifer Lawrence shrug

Eh, whatever. I’m never going to be president. 

That’s always my thought process when I have doubts about putting potentially embarrassing things on the Internet. Like, the litmus test for “Is this appropriate” is not “do you have any dignity whatsoever?” but rather “you planning on running a national campaign for the highest office in the land? No? Great, do whatever the hell you want! Talk about your therapist some more! Take a picture of your brunch! Work out your complicated feelings! Everything is correct! The NSA already knows about it anyway! Who’s hungry?”

So, anyway, here’s to more of that, I guess!

I’m bad at New Year’s Eve, I think. Ever since I was in the restaurant industry I’ve derisively referred to it as Amateur Night. It’s amazing the number of drunk girls I see stumbling about at 12:15 wearing no shoes and crying. We’re only 15 minutes into the new year, what could have possibly gone wrong?

Center City Philadelphia looks like a zombie apocalypse from around 11pm on New Year’s Eve until around 2 a.m. on January 2nd. Hide your kids, hide your wife, bring out your sparkly headdresses, find your vuvuzela, move your car from the spot in occupies in the middle of Broad Street all year round, disregard literally every law, kiss a stranger, litter with wild abandon! It’s a madhouse. And I tend to try to avoid it.Theresa or whoever

It’s not just the total collapse of society that I try to avoid, though. I’m not really a “New Year, New You” person. I don’t do resolutions. I don’t make myself promises for the next year. And I try not to take stock of the past year on New Year’s Eve. I like to look at life as moments–some closer, some farther–not controlled by time but rather the proximity of memory, the immediacy of emotion. I often find myself telling my therapist (oh look! He’s talking about his therapist again!) about something that happened in the past week and then switching seamlessly into a tale from years ago. Because in my mind there’s a connection, they’re all part of the same unfinished story. She seems to take this in stride. She takes everything in stride, which is impressive considering I usually just roll in there like Julia Roberts in the shopping montage from Pretty Woman, all weighed down with baggage and wearing a jaunty hat. “You agreed to help me parse my emotions? Big mistake. Huge.”

On my way to therapy! Thanks Obama!

On my way to therapy! Thanks Obama!

Anyway, I decided that instead of retracing my steps or promising things I may or may not do in the following twelve months (show up on time, contribute to my 401k, go to the gym, somehow get a baby/boyfriend/tattoo), I would revisit 10 of my favorite moments from the 2013 in pictures. Continue reading

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Uncategorized

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.

jhud_24601 copy

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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Eileen reviews Karen's resume. Lacking.
Smash

Famed Angelica Houston Impersonator Angelica Houston

Most Great Television is created by imagining a very specific, unique world and populating it with characters that can exist only there. Like Seinfeld: those characters don’t work anywhere else, but they make perfect sense together. Smash is not Great Television, but it is great television and what’s greatest about this show is that the characters don’t just come from a different world, they come from many different worlds. In fact, there isn’t a single character that exists in the same universe as any of the others. Smash is put together like a ransom note. You’ve got Tom, who comes from a West Elm catalogue and is just as multi-dimensional. You’ve got Julia, who came from an open-call audition for Grizzabella the Glamour Cat. You’ve got Ivy who came straight from Broadway, gat-demmit, and is better than absolutely all of this. You’ve got Jennifer Hudson who came from being Jennifer Hudson (and as my friend Barry says, “acts better in the Weight Watchers commercial.” Damn. Hurts, but it’s true.) There’s a Smobster bartender! There’s separated-at-birth twin gays! There’s Real Life Jordan Roth! And then there’s Maude!

Eileen is 100% not here for your moderately-priced haircut.

Eileen is 100% not here for your moderately-priced haircut.

And by Maude, of course, I mean the that tsunami of sass, the sultan of smirk, the drink-throwing, head-swivelling “producer” known as Eileen, played by famed Angelica Houston impersonator Angelica Houston. Eileen is on a planet all her own. And she’s the only character who seems to realize that she doesn’t know where the hell she is, how the hell she got here or who the hell all these people are.  Every time she shows up on screen everything stop making sense, which is kind of an issue for Smash as she is the engine of the plot. But who cares about plot?!

What I love most about famed Angelica Houston impersonator Angelica Houston’s portrayal of Eileen is that she’s serving you everything even though you didn’t order it. She’s giving you The Witches meets Big Business all day free of charge and the least you can do is say “thank you”. She took time off from being Wes Anderson’s Vice-Muse (she fills in any time Jason Schwartzman is sick) to let you catch the breeze from her swinging bob; breathe deep.

The Witches plus Big Business equals Smash

RIP Ellis.

I love that she doesn’t even try to clarify any of Eileen’s actions with her acting choices. I read once that whenever Cher gets a script she crosses out all of the notes or scene directions because she likes to invent the character on her own (with the help of a broken mirror ball and an orangutan dramaturg wearing a Bob Mackie gown). I like to believe that famed Angelica Houston impersonator Angelica Houston does the same thing. Safran delivers the latest Smash script and she spends a half an hour crossing out any line readings for Eileen and replacing them with the words “smug bemusement“.

Angelica Houston, master of ropes

“I don’t care where the camera is. I’ll look wherever I please! I won an Oscar for ‘Prizzi’s Honor’ for God’s sake.”

That I can accept.

What I can’t accept, however, is this ex-husband character. First of all, Eileen’s struggle to assert her independence is not an interesting plotline when it consists primarily of her wasting good vodka and being rescued by another man. Why can’t this woman have any autonomy? How did she manage to get this far without a lick of business sense? Why does she think all problems can be solved by striding triumphantly and making broad declarations? Has she been watching too much Scandal? (Impossible. There is no such thing as too much Scandal.)

Moreover, the ex-husband isn’t even interesting in a dastardly way. He’s just slinking around like Gollum, wasting screen time that should be spent letting Megan Hilty sing everyone else off the screen, down the street and into the next cab back to Los Angeles.

Eileen reviews Karen's resume. Lacking.

Definition of “lacking”. Eileen doesn’t see anything she likes. Maybe that cute Thai place down the street?

I don’t understand it from a screenwriting point-of-view. What purpose is he serving? I mean, if there were a primetime drama about my life would you see my crazy ex Clarence hanging around all creepy-like, setting bugs on fire with a magnifying glass and being questioned by the police in relation to a string of mysterious pet-nappings? Of course you would! Because that shit is actually interesting and Clarence refuses to go away. And if you’re reading this, Clarence, don’t. Because I told you not to. And don’t you dare comment. I don’t have time for these shenanigans. I’m in tech!

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Smash

Musical Notes: Episode 2

Ah, but, Smash giveth and Smash taketh away.  The second hour of the two-hour premiere was notably talk-heavy, inexcusably JHud-deficient and when characters did start singing… well, ladies and Gays–the gamut:

(Notes on Episode 1 here)

“Would I Lie To You”

Bomb or Bombshell? Bomb.

Let’s never speak of this again.

derek

Why do you hate me so much, Smash?

Seriously, what happened here?  Derek (who is suddenly a despondent alcoholic) gets involved in a fairly unnecessary altercation when he tries to hit on a woman who apparently can’t speak for herself (chivalry!  Or, you know, blatant chauvinism.) and gets knocked over, prompting a dream sequence?  This is some 3rd season Gleelevel stuff. Bubblegum pink stilettos and Robert Palmer homages are jarring enough without the added burden of trying to apply context.  Why are Ivy and Karen singing this to Derek? They haven’t accused him of harassment. What is this telling me about character or plot? It’s so well-sung (especially by Hilty who really lays some sass on it) and the choreography and art direction is great; McPhee is gorgeous as always. But I just don’t know why this is happening. There must be some better way to get into Derek’s psyche. Not that I care about Derek’s psyche. I’m happy with him laying constant verbal smackdowns on Tom (how boring is this guy? He’s the only gay and yet he’s being out-sassed by a Brit).

If this is what occurs when Derek dreams, my prayer for him this season is consciousness. Sustained, unadorned, consciousness.

“Caught In A Storm”

Bomb or Bombshell? Bombshell, I’d say.  This Pasek and Paul ditty really fits McPhee’s voice; it’s radio-friendly and fills out this awful Jeremy Jordan character’s CV nicely.

That said, this scene was just so preposterous I couldn’t give the song a decent listen until finding it isolated on YouTube. Karen, hunty, you are in the theater community at a party full of theater professionals who sing, dance, act, and otherwise perform for a living. Nobody needs you to suddenly burst into song uninvited. I know we’re supposed to think of you as Sutton Foster, but you’re not. And I’m sure after Thoroughly Modern Millie opened even Sutton didn’t go strutting into unwallpapered Brooklyn tenements going “Sup hipsters, who wants to hear ‘When I Marry Mr. Snow?'”

In conclusion, I’m going need Karen to jump off Jeremy Jordan’s nuts, hop back on the G train and take any seat available.

“They Just Keep Moving The Line”

Bomb or Bombshell? Oh, Smash! You lulled me into a stupor with your strange songs and your absurd plot developments and your easily circumvented challenges (Hi, Margo Martindale! We just going to pop up on that stage for a sec. Kthnxbai.) And then, BAM, you hit me with this and I’m crying in public again!  Hilty completely hits this one out of the park. I heard a rumor that she’s been nominated for a Special Tony in Completely Shutting The Shit Down.  Tears, tears at the side of my face.

Phenomenal lyrics, a gorgeous bluesy score that gradually builds to one of the most satisfying crescendos this show has produced. This is Ivy’s “Don’t Forget Me”.

Hilty vocal performance is unimpeachable here; a masterpiece. She gives hardcore “Maybe This Time” realness here. I told my boyfriend I want this played at our wedding; I DON’T CARE THAT IT’S NOT APPROPRIATE.  I will haves it!

Let’s just listen to it on repeat until the next episode comes on.

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Smash

Smating Ritual

Gotta say, I am not smoved by the various love connections, awkward rehearsal-room trysts and tech-related proposals on Season 1 of Smash. Now I love a televised love story; every Thursday I curl up with a bucket of Chai tea and 6 to 10 orders of General Tso’s Chicken and gently encourage my girl Olivia Pope to try to make it work with her boyfriend, The President of the United States (who was in a coma but then woke up suddenly because plot-development and is now fine even though he got shot in the head–it happens–but maybe has a different personality and wants to divorce his pregnant Lady Macbeth wife, which, I don’t know, I’m no Shakespeare scholar, but something tells me it’s not going to go well.)  Oh, Scandal!  Why you so good?!

Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) Oliva Pope (center) struggles valiantly to restrain her pimp-slapping hand.

Oliva Pope (center) struggles valiantly to restrain her pimp-slapping hand.

Anyway! Smash is many things, but it is no Scandal and so I am ambivalent about whether Derek and Ivy end up together (will it make her stop her doing drugs and free her up to cause havoc? If the answer is anything but yes, I don’t care). I didn’t hate Season 1‘s resident doormat Dev, who was in love with Karen but then resented her for her sudden “theater career” (I use that word with the same level of cigarette smoke-tinged irony  that I use when referring to my own “theater career“) and the slept with her rival (“Of all the bars in all the world, you had to walk into… this creepy Southie dive?  Okay. Sure.”) and then proposed.  I may be getting the order wrong but that’s because it doesn’t matter.

None of the relationships on Smash matter. It’s like they’re all just “theater changing” in front of each other—yeah, your private parts are out, but it’s of little consequence because you’re artists.  And you’re drunk in the back of a cab on your way home from Don’t Tell Mama or whatever.  And you’re all probably gay anyway.

Which brings me to my point!  The homosexuals!  I love a good gay subplot.  I wish it was the main plot, but we live in America not Brokeback Mountain and it gets better, but don’t get carried away.  Love love love!  When the 8th episode of the new Kevin Spacey Netflix series House of Cards took a sudden detour into the Forest of Repressed Same-Sex Attraction I was immediately Clap-Your-Hands-Happy, even though it didn’t make a bit of sense.

Kevin Spacey and Kevin Federline

I have no idea what this photo is from (real life? a movie? A Claymation special called “Kevin Federline resorts to desperate measures to make ends meet”? Who knows?)

 

Who cares about making sense? If God wanted gay relays (can we just call relationships “relays”? I can’t doing all this typing.  I have a day job, dammit)… What? Oh, if God wanted gay relays to make sense… oh, whatever, I lost interest in the joke.

I really want to be invested in Tom’s love life but I also really want to be invested in Exxon stock. It’s just so boring (Tom’s love life, not Exxon. If Dallas has taught us anything it’s that the oil business is scintillating. And that shower stalls sometimes contain holes in the space-time continuum.).

I’m just going to say it: Tom is the most boring gay I know. And I know two gay architects and a gay vetrenarian. Veteranarian. Vetrerenarian. A doctor for animals. When Tom shows up on screen I immediately develop Snarkolepsy, a serious condition which makes me fall asleep and dream of a time when Will & Grace was still on the air and I didn’t have to deal with these nouveau gay hoes. Apparently the latest development in social justice for the homosexual community is the privilege of being portrayed with all the blandness of a sitcom dad. That’s the issue with ham-fisted political correctness (whether well-intentioned or not): it robs you of the ability to create compelling characters for fear of offending.

Anyway! You didn’t ask to read my SMasters thesis (10s across the board).  The point is Tom is a blander than Instant Grits (I’ve been reading The Pioneer Woman!).

Like when he was dating the politician (side note: I don’t like when shows that are not The West Wing have characters that are in politics, because I always feel like they’re not walking and talking fast enough. If you’re not competing in an Olympic sport called “Express Expositing” you’re not really in government.)

Anyway! Tom and the politician were so bored by each that they couldn’t even figure out how to have sex. Which… Okay, can we have a smoment?  There’s  scene where they’re lying side-by-side staring at the ceiling (which is network television code for “we’ve just finished making the beast with two backs”) except… no, that is clearly not what has happened!  Perhaps they’ve just finished reading passages from Tenth of December to each other or discussing paint swatches or running lines from The Country Wife, but they were definitely not smating.

It's not going to suck itself.

It’s not going to suck itself.

What kind of gay sex are they having where upon completion one just rolls off the other and everyone stares soulfully into the air having thoughts? Tom is so boring he doesn’t even know that the point of having a upholstered headboard is so that you can slam various body parts against it for hours on end without injury. But what do I know? Oh, that’s right: EVERYTHING.

Is Tom a neuter? I’m asking a serious question!  Is he a Ken doll?  How is he not spontaneously combusting with arousal over being in flagrante delicto with that total dreamsicle Neal Bledsoe, who is—No Shade—Too Hot For Tom.

Ugh, now I’m just being bitchy. Sorry. I’m a stickler for sex accuracy.  This whole thing has me plum tuckered out.  I was going to go on about Tom’s new boyfriend “Black Man Who Dances and Likes Football” (actual name irrelevant) but I need to go rest my eyes for a spell.

Lord. These hoes.

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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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