Smash – “The Workshop” – Recap (UPDATE)

Here’s your “Smash” discussion post. Watch out for guest star Bernadette Peters!

Marilyn the Musical is presented to potential investors. Ivy’s mom (Bernadette Peters) enters the picture. Julia and Michael continue their affair. Karen cuts a demo for a big time record producer.

In theater, when a new musical finally enters the workshop phase, it’s the creative team’s first chance to really see the fruits of their labor and give potential investors a rough idea of what their finished product will be like. If the workshop is a success, it will prompt people to reach into their pockets and give the creative team the funds they need. But if it’s not, the creative team will have to go back to the drawing board to ensure the future of their show—and that’s exactly what happened in this week’s episode of Smash.

I don’t know how many of you will agree with what I’m about to say, but I prefer it when the writers of Smash focus more on what it takes to bring a new musical like Marilyn from the page to the stage. In my opinion, sometimes they spend too much time playing up the drama between two characters when they should pull back the curtain on the creative process behind Marilyn instead. There are plenty of shows out there, scripted or otherwise, that are heavy on the drama. But as far as I know, only Smash can give audiences a unique look at what life on Broadway is really like, so the writers would do well to use that to their advantage. Having said that, I think that’s exactly what they did with “The Workshop” this week and I hope they continue to take steps in this direction.

My favorite part of the episode was…well, the workshop. I really enjoyed seeing Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) and Michael Swift (Will Chase) revisit some numbers we’ve seen in previous episodes, like “Let Me Be Your Star” (my personal favorite) “20th Century Fox Mambo,” “History Is Made at Night” and “National Pastime.” I also thought the new song they debuted this week, titled “Lexington and 52nd Street,” was quite good. I felt the passion in Michael’s voice while he was singing it. I also couldn’t help but smile when I saw Ivy’s mother, Broadway legend Leigh Conroy (Bernadette Peters), get teary-eyed when her daughter began singing.

Speaking of Ivy and her mom, I thought this week’s episode went a long way towards making Ivy more relatable. In fact, at this point I can relate to her more than Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee). It’s hard enough to make a name for yourself in the American theater when you’re a nobody, but it’s even tougher when you’re a legacy. I followed my mom into the Philippine entertainment industry—we work for one of our country’s biggest TV networks—and there’s so much pressure on me to be even half the writer she is. That’s why I completely understood where Ivy was coming from this week. I know some people questioned whether someone like her, who spent ten years honing her skills in the chorus, would fumble like that during a workshop. Normally I would agree, but in this case I think that happened because Ivy saw her mom enter the studio before the workshop began and that threw her, as Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) said, “off her game.”

But even if Leigh’s presence makes Ivy uncomfortable, I wouldn’t be mad if she were to come back at some point. Bernadette Peters is Bernadette Peters for a reason, and her performance of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Stephen Sondheim and Jule Styne’s Gypsy: A Musical Fable proved that. Besides, as annoying as Leigh may have been in the first half of the episode, she redeemed herself—at least she did in my eyes—when she tearfully told Ivy towards the end, “Even now I wish you would find something else. Not because you’re not good at it. Because you’re my daughter and I love you, and for years I’ve watched as people without an ounce of your talent have passed you by. That’s the theater. But your day will come, because there’s no question you’re a star.” Those words were exactly what people who feel pressured or whatever by their parents want to hear. I, for one, thought it was the most moving scene of the episode.

But enough about Ivy. What did you guys think of Karen’s subplot involving a possible record deal? I was impressed by Katharine’s version of Colbie Caillat’s “Brighter Than the Sun.” It sounded like something that could have been on Katharine’s second album. She sounds so much better singing these types of songs than the ones featured on her ill-fated post-Idol debut. I thought the recording engineer’s reaction to Katharine’s performance was believable—I had to stifle a giggle when I saw his expression change from surly to slack-jawed in awe. Anyway, I totally think Karen should have taken the meeting with the label exec. If I were in Karen’s shoes, I would have skipped the workshop to see where that meeting would take me. But I understand why she didn’t, because she’s “more of a stage performer.” However, I hope that’s not the last we hear of Bobby Raskin. I want the writers to explore Karen’s possible future as a recording artist too.

Other things I liked about this episode were the apparent end of Julia’s affair with Michael (was I the only one who wanted to wring his neck when seeing his wife and child walk into the studio didn’t seem to have any effect on his conscience whatsoever?) and a quick glimpse of Derek’s soul (he has one after all!) when he gave Ivy some much-needed encouragement before the workshop. But because he’s still Derek and he’s still an ass—at least according to Tom Levitt (Christian Borle)—he had to go and psych her out during intermission. Going back to Michael, why do I feel like we haven’t seen the last of him yet, despite the fact that Julia and Tom threw him under the bus during their meeting with Derek and Marilyn producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston).

Speaking of Eileen, who else cheered when she cut the obsequious Ellis Tancharoen (Jaime Cepero) down to size after he squealed to her about Julia’s dalliance with Michael. “I won’t pretend this isn’t useful information, because it is. But if I hear you’ve repeated this to anyone, you’ll never work on this production or in this town again.” Oh snap!

All in all, this was another solid hour of Smash. Who else thinks this show is on an upswing? Hehe. ;)


Promo for next week’s episode