Smash Recap: If You Can't Stand the Heat, Check Out the Size of the Fridge in Julia's Kitchen

bernadette peters smashBefore I say a single word about this week’s episode of Smash, can we pause to discuss Bernadette Peters’ performance of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”? Holy mother of Broadway, I can honestly say I grinned ear-to-somewhere-three-inches-past-my-other-ear for the duration of the brassiest, most charismatic number in Smash‘s seven-episode history.

And just as impressive was Peters’ turn as Leigh Conroy, Broadway legend, tsunami of charisma, and not exactly World’s Greatest Mom to our fair protagonist Ivy Lynn. (Come on, you know Leigh did her vocal warmups before she jumped in that cab to the workshop space.)

When Ivy finally got around to telling Mommie Dearest that she was a black hole who sucks all the air out of the room, I half expected Leigh to respond “You say that like it’s a bad thing!” I know, I know, she’s not a noble creature — and she draped her coat over her daughter to seize her moment in the spotlight — but dang, Peters’ Leigh is mesmerizing. If Smash ever achieves the kind of success that warrants a spinoff, please let it be called Leigh! From her introductory musings on taking the subway (“Not in heels, I won’t”) to her response to Julia apologizing for fawning (“there’s no need for me to forgive you for that!”) to her noisy-quiet last-minute entrance to the Marilyn workshop (“Oh please, don’t mind me. I’m not here!”), Leigh scored more laughs per minute than any character this season — save for Eileen. Hrmm. Maybe that spinoff should be Eileen! (& Leigh!). Thoughts?

Peters wasn’t the only great thing about “The Workshop.” Indeed, Smash is at its best when it downplays the interpersonal turmoil and focuses more intently on the inner workings of mounting a major Broadway production, and we got more juicy glimpses of the artistic process tonight: Julia struggling to put the finishing touches on the book; the studio space plagued by a faulty (over)heating system; chorus girl Karen wondering if she should/could ditch her low-paying, possibly futile gig for a most likely bigger opportunity with a major record producer. And best of all, the workshop of Marilyn itself, featuring snippets of previously heard numbers “Let Me Be Your Star” (slow clap here for a stellar job by Megan Hilty), “Twentieth Century Fox Mambo,” “History Is Made at Night,” and “National Pasttime,” plus a new number, “Lexington and 52nd Street.” Seriously, I’d go to Ticketmaster right now and buy two seats for Marilyn the Musical — if it actually existed. And as long as it didn’t conflict with Idol recapping duties.

As for the week’s key plot points:

* Ellis finally has some competition for Smash‘s creepiest creepster in the form of Michael. Yes, Julia was heinously indiscreet holding hands with the show’s leading man right in front of the workshop space, and yes she shouldn’t have been adulterously humping around with dude where she could easily be caught by Tom (as well as Ellis, who’s stealthier than a Downton Abbey servant and more menacing than Shark Week), but I still couldn’t believe how borderline stalker-y he was when she tried to break off their affair, or how unaffected he was when his wife and young son showed up at rehearsal. At least Julia had the decency to become nauseous with guilt.

* Bravo to Eileen for serving hardcore bitchery — threatening Ellis with Broadway blacklisting — when the sniveling assistant gossiped about Julia and Michael’s affair. I can only hope Eileen will be throwing a drink in Ellis’ face by the season finale.

* What’s with the way Karen is always blaming public transportation for being late to major auditions? First her Marilyn callback, and this week her recording session with that major record producer who you just know was the dude behind the control booth. (Also: Hasn’t girlfriend ever heard of Google Image Search?) That said, I don’t think Katharine McPhee’s voice has ever sounded richer or more pleasing than on her cover of Colbie Caillat’s “Brighter Than the Sun.” This show might make a pop star of McPhee yet! (Side note: Nice touch by the writers having Karen describe Ivy Lynn’s performance as “incredible,” and thereby not contributing to the fiction that two talented female coworkers must be engaged 24/7 in bitter rivalry.)

* I liked that we finally got to see a decent side of Derek in his relationship with Ivy, the way he comforted her after her mother stole her thunder. “I know I don’t say this enough, but you’re wonderful in this show, and you’re gonna be great tomorrow.” But two things bothered me later: Was it really so wrong for Derek to put on his director hat at intermission and tell his girlfriend she needed to pull it together for Act 2? And also, does anyone really believe that a seasoned pro like Ivy would be slipping and stumbling through the workshop? I’d rather have seen Derek questioning something more intangible about her performance than such hammy/obvious mistakes.

* Methinks Tom is setting up his boyfriend, er, guy he’s dating, for the brushoff. I just wish the writers would give new crush Sam a few character traits other than “likes sports” and “hot” before Tom falls head over piano for him. Also: Tom’s unyielding support of Ivy pretty much solidified his position as my fave character on the show.

* I also breathed a sigh of relief when Leigh finally gave some love (and encouragement) to Ivy: “Your day will come because there is no question you’re a star.” Oh, Leigh, hopefully your multi-episode arc will come now that you’ve extended an olive branch to our protagonist.

* Everybody needs to stop mentioning Scarlett Johansson as a possible replacement for Ivy. Ditto Michelle Williams, who isn’t about to take a role in Marilyn the Musical after starring on the screen in (and earning an Oscar nod for) My Week With Marilyn. Actually, I’m not buying Sutton Foster, either. #TeamIvy

* Was there anything more ice-cold than these two lines?
Tom: “I think the real problem is Michael Swift”
Julia: “Yes, I think he should go.”

* And even though Julia hasn’t quite redeemed herself in my eyes, Debra Messing was aces in that scene where she told her son that Michael had been fired from the show (and from any additonal front-porch smooching sessions). “He wasn’t right for the part.” No, Julia, he most certainly was not.

* Lastly, Julia’s refrigerator is a thing of appliance-department beauty, and possibly bigger than most Manhattan studio apartments. I’d like it to also get a multi-episode arc. That is all.

What did you think of this week’s Smash? Were you wowed by Peters? And what did you think of the actual Marilyn workshop? Sound off in the comments!

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