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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Smash According to Beaverhausen

NBC-tv's Smash -- known in some circles as All About EveS -- is the backstage tale of a Broadway-bound musical-bio about Marilyn Monroe (eventually entitled Bombshell), and those involved in its production. Smash is a soap opera-cum-musical with Broadway-like, boffo production numbers surrounding emotional imbroglios, brouhahas, brawls and lots of hanky-panky, all amidst the glam and glitter of the Manhattan theater world and its claw-your-way-to-the-top, dog-eat-dog ethos. (I'm reading Frank Langella's book, Dropped Names, at this time, too, making me think the show's drama is not all that removed from reality.)

Karen, an aspiring singer/actress portrayed by Katherine McPhee, opens the series by singing "Over the Rainbow" at an audition. McPhee famously sang this song on American Idol, typical of Smash's knowing, affectionate homages. Karen is followed by the auditioning Ivy (real-life "Broadway Baby" Megan Hilty). Both the suave brunette beauty Karen, and the petite curvaceous blonde Ivy get callbacks... and their rivalry for the Marilyn role begins! You should probably know that Karen is pretty centered and low-key while Ivy is a hot mess, loaded with low-self-esteem.

Karen gets a booty call from Bombshell's British director, Derek (Jack Davenport), who is a womanizing cad but, realizing the nature of her visit once arrived at his apartment, Karen cock-teases Derek only to walk out once he's heated up. Derek then moves on to seducing the needy Ivy. She falls for her director and is free of compunctions regarding the casting couch. You can call Ivy's booty anytime!

Ivy has a little inferiority complex. Ok, it's a big one, actually! Turns out her Mom is Bernadette Peters, who gets to belt out "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from her Tony Award-nominated role in Gypsy. (Get what I mean about homages?) Actually, Peters portrays retired musical-theater diva Leigh Conroy in the show, and she can get kind of overbearing with Ivy. Her daughter seethes, wishing to step out of the chorus when it's Ivy's Turn. But when will that moment come? Leigh may be too self involved to see Ivy's inner suffering.

Derek re-invents the Marilyn show as a techno/rock musical at one point and casts Karen as Marilyn. Ivy finds out about these clandestine rehearsals and flips out. At this point, Ivy has returned to the chorus of a musical called Heaven on Earth. Dressed in wings and a halo, Ivy pulls a Neely O'Hara and mixes pills and liquor in her dressing room. She ultimately becomes a fallen angel onstage when she takes a tumble  -- and not with a guy this time. She gets fired from the show cuz Broadway doesn't go for booze and dope.

Ivy's final transgression is to sleep with Dev, Karen's sexy British-Indian live-in boyfriend. Dev (Raza Jaffrey, who shined in Smash's big, fantasy, Arabian-Nights-themed Bollywood number, the cast all-singing! all dancing! with him), felt dejected because Karen turned down his engagement during the show's Boston try-outs. (She was overwhelmed.) Dev met Ivy at a bar, they got drunk and went to his hotel room for a one-nighter. (He didn't know she was Karen's nemesis, of course; but Ivy knew he was Karen's bf.)

Ivy, furious that Karen stepped into the starring Marilyn role at the last minute in Boston, and after Derek spits it out in her pretty little face: "[Karen] has something you don't have!", presented Karen with the engagement ring Dev had lost in the room they shared, admitting to her revenge-sex. Karen furiously confronted a mortified Dev, broke up with the two-timing hunk, then tore off her blond Marilyn wig and ran out of the theater. "She took her wig off! In this business, that's tantamount to 'I quit,'" commented a chorus boy.

But Karen did return -- newly yielding to director Derek's touchy-feely approach.

Karen had actually stepped in, last minute, to fill the big shoes of Uma Thurman. La Thurman played neurotic superstar Rebecca Duvall over a multiple-episode arc, demanding rewrites, unending personal attention and ego-stroking during the time the production opted for a big-name Marilyn. Not surprisingly, Derek boinked her, and jealous stalker Ivy knew it.

Ivy can be bitchy, but the drama on this show mostly comes from warring personal agendas and egos. There are no villains -- except, perhaps, for Ellis (Jaime Cepero). Ellis began as personal assistant to Tom, the show's composer, then rose to assist the show's producer, Eileen, ultimately demanding to co-produce. Ellis is scheming, manipulative and uses his bisexuality to further his ambitions. He's the biggest Eve of all! He even poisoned Rebecca Duvall, hoping to get his pal, Ivy, in the Marilyn role.

Deborah Messing plays Julia, the show's lyricist. Again, her best friend is a gay man, just like on Will & Grace! Messing ain't messing around on Smash, however, playing a much more intense character and showing a lot more dramatic range. I mean, the lady has tsuris; a genuine lust for heartache! At first, her big problem was that hubby thought she was putting her career ahead of their plans to adopt (a child, that is), but then she ended up in an affair with an ex-beau who was cast as Joe DiMaggio in the musical. And her kid got into drugs. Enough already, Julia and stop Messing up your life! (Oh, but that would be so boring to watch!)


As Tom, Broadway's  Christian Borle, Julia's gayest, bestest friend on the series, has made tv history, rather quietly, strangely enough, by kissing another man -- a black man! -- on the lips (passionately) more than once.  Previously, Tom dated a white, Log Cabin Republican, but quickly dumped his ass as any gay man worth his salt would do. (As is my firm policy, Republicans need not apply.)


And Anjelica Huston plays producer Eileen Rand. Coming off a bitter divorce, where she threw drinks in her smarmy ex's face more than once, she's gotten money from Joe Jonas and now has a lover with mob money, desperately trying to produce on her own. One of the loveliest homages on the show is when her character sang real-life grandfather, Walter Houston's, signature "September Song."

I believe I've reasonably covered all Season 1 major plot points and characters. Season 2 begins in Jan. 2013. They're bringing in a producer from Gossip Girl, so expect the fur to fly farther and for the bitch-o-meter to crank up a few notches.

And that's Smash 2012 ... according to Dj Buddy Beaverhausen.





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