Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The SMASH Reality Index Season 2 Episode 4

Back by popular demand, Dave (@NineDaves) and I have teamed up to bring you our take on what’s keepin’ it real and what’s faking it each week on SMASH. Follow the 'caps here or on Dave's site.

We’ve seen it happen time and time again. After years of struggling, an actor finally realizes his/her dream of making it to the Broadway stage in a breakout role. Fanboys and fangirls line up outside the theater for autographs, flooding the BroadwayWorld Message Boards and their Twitter feeds with endless praise and dreamcasting possibilities. Critics follow. The New York Times does a profile or two. Then there’s the Tony nomination. And eventual win. And then – without warning – said actor turns his/her back on us all and goes out to Hollywood to do a television series.

It happened with Kristin Chenoweth. And Cheyenne Jackson. Patrick Wilson did it to us too. Sutton Foster. Laura Benanti. Aaron Tveit. And then Christian Borle, Megan Hilty, and Jeremy Jordan left us to do SMASH.

For a theater fan, there’s nothing worse. You care so much about them. You’ve woken up early countless times to rush their shows. You’ve gone to their cabaret shows at 54 Below. You’ve waited to see them at Broadway on Broadway. You’ve bought their old shit at the Broadway Flea Market. And now, the closest you’ll come to seeing them on Broadway again is when they attend a Broadway show when they’re in town doing New York press for their TV show. You’ve been abandoned. You’re nothing to them.

It’s not like you don’t want them to succeed. You just want them to stay awhile and appreciate Broadway. You want them to enjoy the audience they’ve worked so hard to build.
It happens time and time again. So it’s no surprise SMASH finally documented this desire of a Broadway star to move past the Great White Way.  And they did so through the story of Ms. Veronica Moore (Jennifer Hudson).

Since SMASH has been heavily advertising Jennifer Hudson’s stint on the show, it’s no wonder we would get an episode devoted to her. Here, Veronica hired Derek to direct her one-night-only concert (missed opportunity to have JHud sing “One Night Only”) that could get her noticed by Hollywood producers. She wanted to break away from her good-girl image – and break out of Broadway. In the end, she spent 45 minutes fighting Derek on all his choices, and then sang a damn good song. It was a one-off episode that did nothing to move the bigger SMASH story forward. What a waste of time.

We’ll miss Veronica Moore (this was JHud’s last episode on SMASH). But at least y’all now know what us theater geeks deal with every few seasons or so. They at least got that right. 

How’d they do otherwise? Read on.

Totally True
• Veronica Moore sings “I Got Love” and it’s amazing and perfect and dammit we wish we could marry it.
• Is that Ryan Watkinson, our favorite ensemble member from recent revivals of Promises, Promises and How To Succeed…? Why yes! Yes it is! Plus 20!
• Sheryl Lee Ralph plays Cynthia Moore, Veronica Moore’s over-bearing, bossy, Mama Rose-like mother. Plus 100 because we knew the original Deena Jones would grow up to be a total monster.
• “You could never have enough love,” Cynthia tells Derek. “You of all people should know that after what I’ve read.” Plus 10 because that’s a read, gurl.
• IT’S TIME FOR OUR FAVORITE FEATURE, ‘THE ANN HARADA LINE OF THE WEEK!’ This week, upon meeting Veronica’s mother, “Linda” asks: “Isn’t she a little old to have a mom-ager?” CONGRATULATIONS ANN!
• Cynthia goes toe-to-toe with Derek, which makes us love her even more.
• Derek thinks Veronica sold out her concert in six hours because his name was above the title. Man, if Derek keeps up this egotistical behavior, we’re going to start calling him Tyra Banks.
• Derek refers to himself as “The Big Bad Wills.” Plus 50
• Derek complains that the songs Veronica wants to sing too safe and therefore aren’t edgy enough to shake up her image. “Get me something raw,” he screams to Tom. Karen then immediately gets in touch with Jimmy and Kyle because she thinks she knows everything.
• Julia hates acting classes. Why Julia? ‘Cause they could actually help you become a better writer? Oh yes… precisely.
• Jimmy Collins is throwing coins into what we assume is a douchebag jar. Plus 10.
• Another Joe’s Pub shout-out! Woohoo!
• Derek’s advice to Jimmy and Kyle while they finish their musical: “Try out material somewhere that counts, build buzz, get noticed.” We’ve been to enough up-and-coming composer concerts at Joe’s Pub to know that this is what people do. And spoiler alert – half of them are writing for SMASH now.
• “How fast can you get into Manhattan?” Karen Cartwright asks Jimmy. He lives in Greenpoint, Karen. Off the G? Don’t hold your breath…
• Ivy Lynn and Veronica Moore are old friends. Probably because they both have controlling mothers!
• Veronica Moore played Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. Man, that “Somewhere That’s Green” must have been LOUD.
• “We’re big fans,” Kyle tells Tom, upon meeting him. “I haven’t seen any of his stuff,” Jimmy tells Kyle. Plus 20. 
• “An audience of a thousand just turned into a few million,” Derek tells the cast, announcing the show will be filmed for Bravo. A few million? Doubt they’d get those ratings.
• Plus 500 for SMASH showing live-singing. Take note, Les Miserables. This is how it should have been done.
• Sorry, Jimmy and Kyle, as much as we like you and your songs, we have to agree with Tom here. None of the songs you played were at all in Veronica’s voice. 
• Kyle mentions that Sondheim wrote “Send in the Clowns” in one day. Then Karen shares that Julia and Tom wrote “Don’t Forget Me” in less than that. And that, our friends, is the problem with Karen Cartwright. She thinks Julia and Tom and Stephen Sondheim are on equal playing field. Heck, she thinks they’re better! Three on a Match = Sweeney Todd.
• Peter has his acting class read Julia’s Bombshell book out loud. Only he changes all the character names. And guess what? Everyone can tell how horrible it is! ‘This is supposed to be a play about a strong woman, right?” says one student. “But she’s not strong at all. She’s far more defined by the men around her.” DING DING DING. We could have told you that and we haven’t even read 2 pages of the damn book!
• Julia loses her shit in acting class because she’s a child and can’t take criticism. Plus 10 because this is consistent with the Julia we’ve seen for the past two seasons, but minus 10 because SERIOUSLY STFU JULIA.
• Also, Plus 100 for that girl in acting class grabbing the arm of her friend while Julia acted like a total nightmare. Genius.
• Of course acting students would think that Hedda Gabler was amazing, even with the names changed.
• Jimmy lists “scotch, weed, and coke” as things that would help him write. It’s like he knows the key ingredients to The SMASH Reality Index.
• “Come to the theater,” Tom tells Julia, joking. “We have nothing but well-adjusted happy people here.” Plus 50 because they’re all crazy.
• “Why did you date Derek anyway?” Veronica asks Ivy. “Was it the accent, or the hair?” Plus 80 because it was clearly both.
• Cynthia suggests Tom direct Veronica’s concert. Once again, another mention of Tom’s directing ability. You guys see that foreshadowing, right?
• Ivy tells Derek to let Veronica sing what she wants to sing. Plus 15 because it’s nice to see Ivy standing up to Derek and taking his ego down a few pegs. 
• Jimmy gets frustrated when Derek won’t look at his song, prompting a lecture from Derek to Jimmy about patience and hard work. “No one deserves anything in this business,” Derek barks. “You wait your turn and you earn it. You are not there yet.” If only he would have told that to Karen Cartwright last season.  
• Derek calls Karen “darling” for the first time in a long time. Plus 60 because we missed that misogynistic pet-name. 
• According to Kyle, Jimmy “has a trigger and when it gets pulled, he’s gone for days.” We wouldn’t mind pulling his trigger from time to time.
•  “I suggest things and you start bantering which is your way of really not listening,” Peter tells Julia, also summing up eight seasons of Will & Grace.
• “The good girl is what the people want to see,” Cynthia tells Veronica. “And you darling, need to play to your strengths.” PAGING LAURA OSNES. 
• Derek lists off Veronica’s set list. “A Sleeping Bee” (from House of Flowers), “If I Loved You” (from Carousel), “Ease on Down the Road” (from The Wiz), and “I Could Have Danced All Night” (from My Fair Lady). Hey we’d go to this concert! But only if Norm Lewis duets on “If I Loved You,” obviously.
• Tom tells Derek that when he caves, Tom likes him even less. Us too!
• Tom refers to Jimmy as “the real thing” and we can only assume that it’s really Christian Borle talking about Jeremy Jordan.
• Kyle Bishop walks down the street, singing Billy Joel songs. Just like we do sometimes. Plus 50.
And plus another 50 for choosing a Billy Joel song that’s not on one of his Greatest Hits albums.
• “Everybody Loves You Now” is a fantastic song.
• Yay! A ghostlight! Plus 10!
• Jimmy’s a lot nicer when he’s on drugs. Plus 30 because we are too.
• We assume the only way Jimmy was into kissing Karen Cartwright was because he was on drugs.
• “So this is your fix?” Julia asks Peter, while pouring a glass of wine. “Getting drunk at noon on a weekday?” Sounds good to us.
• Julia finally has a breakthrough, realizing that the show is not about Marilyn, but more about how men saw her. “Every scene should be from a man’s point of view,” she says. “She didn’t have a voice. They all spoke for her.” Damn this show sounds good now!
• Nick turns himself in and Eileen confesses that she knew where the money came from and no one cares.
• Veronica decides to do the edgy version of her show as if none of us didn’t see that coming from a mile away.
• Oh hey Joe’s Pub reference #2!
• Eileen gathers Derek, Tom, and Julia together to tell them that Bombshell is going to Broadway… with Jerry as producer. “He’s the world’s worst human being, but he’s a very good producer,” she says, stepping down from the production. We’re sure that’s true of a lot of producers.
• Turns out Ellis is the one who tipped off Jerry to Eileen’s legal problems. BECAUSE OF COURSE ELLIS IS STILL AROUND. 
• “Don’t ever, ever contact me again” Jerry tells Ellis, cutting him a $50,000 check. 10 bucks says the producers told Jaime Cepero the same thing – but paid him way less. 

Oh Hell No!
• Another week, another montage. We’re going to keep deducting points for this, SMASH, until you get your shit together and change up your format!
• Derek is directing Veronica Moore’s solo concert, and he hires Tom to be musical director? They hate one another! This makes no sense.
• And it’s not just Tom. Linda’s here. Karen. Doesn’t Derek know anyone else in the industry? Or is it just people he worked with on Bombshell?
• Derek wonders where ensemble member “Beth” is, despite the fact that none of the other ensemble members are performing with Veronica during “I’ve Got Love” at the moment. Focus Wills!
• As much as we like Sheryl Lee Ralph as a bitchy stage mom, we kind of had that character last season. Only she was played by Bernadette Peters. Meh.
• Veronica apparently sold out her one-night-only concert in six hours. And her mother thinks she could have done it in one hour! Both of these are completely implausible for a Broadway star. Even Alan Cumming and Liza Minnelli didn’t sell out their concert that fast!
• Beth’s boyfriend won’t let her work with Derek because of his sexual harassment issues. Sorry Beth, but you’re a fucking idiot for letting your boyfriend dictate what ensemble parts you’re going to take.
• “Musicals take years to develop,” says Kyle. “There’s no shortcuts.” Obviously he didn’t watch SMASH last season, when Bombshell was produced in 15 episodes.
• Karen Cartwright criticizes Jimmy for not dressing up to meet Derek. Derek is wearing a dirty v-neck t-shirt. Minus 10.
• Can we talk about how ridiculous it is that this concert is even happening this quickly? Jimmy and Kyle couldn’t get Joe’s Pub because it was booked six months in advance. You think Town Hall is just free? Last week, Veronica mentioned she wanted to do this concert. And now we’re here, two days before, with tickets already sold, and a TV crew on the way? Minus 100.
• The only way Bravo would be filming a Veronica Moore concert is if Kathy Griffin were hosting and Kim Zolciak was headling. Minus 200.
• Are we the only ones who think Jimmy should have song all his demos? His voice is amazing – far better than Karen Cartwright’s!
• We get that they’re going for this “Jimmy is a total asshole” thing. But even a bad-boy Broadway composer is still a fucking BROADWAY COMPOSER. He would know better than to mouth off to Tom when given a huge opportunity like composing a song for Veronica Moore to sing in a nationally televised concert.
• Sorry. We don’t buy that Karen Cartwright knows shit about writing songs.
• Also, why is Karen everyone’s fucking muse?
• Karen gives Jimmy terrible advice, saying he should write the song for him, not for Veronica Moore. Was she not there just two scenes ago when all his other songs that he wrote for himself were totally rejected because they didn’t fit Veronica Moore’s voice?
• Kyle eavesdrops on Karen and Jimmy. Because apparently, the writers think we miss Ellis. Ugh.
• Minus 100 for everything about this songwriting scene. EVERYTHING.
• Nick’s back and we still don’t care.
• Veronica Moore doesn’t have a life at all because she works too hard. Minus 500 because if SMASH thinks they’re going to get us to care about their characters by presenting a storyline about a famous star who works too hard and doesn’t have a personal life, they’re wrong. Give us something we can relate to for fuck’s sake. #RichPeopleProblems
• Veronica is complaining about working with Derek. She doesn’t like how he pushes her so hard outside her comfort zone. Yet she was the one who hired him to direct her concert SO SHE COULD BREAK OUT OF HER GOOD GIRL IMAGE. AND SHE’S THE ONE WHO WANTED HIM TO DIRECT HER IN THE WIZ BECAUSE HE WAS THE ONLY ONE NO AFRAID TO MAKE AN EDGY VERSION OF THE SHOW. GODDAMMIT WHAT IS THE PROBLEM HERE.
• Karen Cartwright tries to stand up for Veronica when Derek is yelling at her. Girl, STFU THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.
• Eileen Rand has a tearful conversation with Nick, convincing him to stay. The Eileen Rand we know would have thrown a drink in his face for totally disappearing on her. Minus 10.
• Karen Cartwright refers to Jimmy and Kyle’s song as “simple, pure,” and “Broadway – with a fresh take.” Minus 400 because we get the feeling Karen hasn’t seen a Broadway show in years.
• Jimmy once again mouths off to Derek, and then get’s pissed at Karen because she doesn’t leave with him. Again – we get it. Jimmy’s an asshole. But this is a little much. 
• Derek claims Jimmy’s bad behavior is an attempt to show off in front of Karen. As if Derek isn’t always doing the same thing.
• “Look Karen, you’re a really nice person…” Kyle says, in the lie of a lifetime.
The Singing Bird, Peter’s play, is actually about a bird who sings. Peter might be a bad playwright, but no one would publish that shit under that title.
• “I want Bombshell to be great,” Julia says. “I just wish I knew what was wrong.” Um… Julia? EVERYONE HAS BEEN TELLING YOU WHAT IS WRONG FOR FOUR EPISODES NOW. STFU AND LISTEN!
• “If my mother loved me half as much as I loved you,” Cynthia tells Veronica, “Maybe my singing wouldn’t have stopped in church.” Okay Mama Rose. We get it.  You were born too soon and you started too late. What you have in you? You could have been better than any of us. What you’ve got in you? What you’ve been holding down inside of you… oh if you ever let it out. There wouldn’t be signs BIG ENOUGH. THERE WOULDN’T BE LIGHTS BRIGHT ENOUGH!
• “Sometimes I don’t remember what I wanted,” says Veronica. Go back and watch last week’s episode, gurl.
• As much as we don’t believe Jimmy’s bad boy attitude, we also don’t believe his “I’m so sick of letting everyone down” excuses.
• Karen advises Jimmy to go back into the theater so everyone can see he can handle rejection. “That’s what I did when I didn’t get Marilyn,” Karen says. Actually Karen, that’s not what you did. You bitched and moaned and pouted until you got your way.
• Also, why would Jimmy go back into the theater if they’re not using his song? He’s not involved anymore! Time to go home and sober up!
• Jimmy and Karen kiss and MINUS EVERYTHING.
• Veronica sings “I Got Love” as a slow, sultry number, accompanied by bad Fosse-esque choreography. Congratulations Derek! You’ve helped break Veronica out of her good girl image. She’s now terrible! Like, truly truly awful.
• Also, Ivy Lynn is not a dancer.
• Jimmy and Kyle are inexplicably backstage, watching Veronica’s performance. They had no reason to be there given that they thought their song wasn’t chosen.
• Fun fact! “I Can’t Let Go” – the show-stopping number Veronica sings at the end of her concert that’s supposed to be written by Jimmy and Kyle? It was actually composed by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman. The same guys who wrote all the songs Julia and Tom wrote for Bombshell. We love the song (and Veronica’s performance). But if Jimmy and Kyle are supposed to be the anti-Tom and Julia, perhaps pick a different song.
• And that was clearly not Karen and Ivy signing backup. Unless they magically can sing like black women.
• Veronica brings Jimmy and Kyle on stage to bow at the end of her concert. First of all, they weren’t even supposed to be there as her singing their song was a totally surprise (and last minute decision). Second of all, it’s not like they’re established composers or even first-timers after the performance of their first full show. And third of all, Kyle didn’t do anything to write this song.
• Tom and Derek are pulled from the after-party of Veronica’s show to talk to Eileen. Tom is wearing a tux. Derek, that same dirty black t-shirt from rehearsals. Minus 50.
• “I just hope I’m not making the wrong decision,” Eileen says, as the camera pans in on the awful Bombshell artwork. Too late for that!
• Jerry gives some speech about how Bombshell will be “the biggest hit Broadway’s had in years” (LOL The Book of Mormon LOL) and how “everyone will know Eileen Rand couldn’t do it on her own” (eye roll). 

So what do you think? Were you as annoyed with this week’s episode as we were? Let us know!  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Contest: Win Tickets To Ann on Broadway

Update: The contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered. The winner was picked at random. Congratulations Phillip! If you didn't win, check back on Monday for a chance to win tickets to another new Broadway show.

Happy morning-after-The-Oscars! Today, I'm giving away a pair of tickets to see Holland Taylor's one-woman show, Ann. Taylor, who also wrote the show, portrays Ann Richards, the legendary governor of Texas.

In order to win a pair of tickets to see the show, leave a comment on this post telling me which political figure you'd like to see a play about. If you have an idea for who should play that person, include that as well, though it's not necessary for the entry. For an extra entry, tweet about the contest or retweet one of my tweets about it. You must be following on Twitter for the extra entry. A winner will be chosen at random from all the entries on Friday, March 1, at 5:30 p.m. Please include your e-mail address or Twitter handle in the comments so I have a way to contact you if you win. Good luck!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The SMASH Reality Index Season 2 Episode 3

Back by popular demand, Dave (@NineDaves) and I have teamed up to bring you our take on what’s keepin’ it real and what’s faking it each week on SMASH. Follow the 'caps here or on Dave's site.

There’s this very famous episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent that’s become a cult favorite of theater fans everywhere. The plot centers around the murder of a Broadway actor, and everyone’s a suspect. The director. The understudy. The composer. The producer. You get the picture. In the end, it turns out it’s the dramaturg who did it. The sneaky, meddling, researcher was apparently trying to get a payout for the lead actor’s death. For shame!

So when SMASH decided to call this week’s episode “The Dramaturg,” we were immediately convinced bad things were afoot. Surprisingly though, the dramaturg in this case only led to positive changes for our show within a show. Peter Gilman (played by the delicious Daniel Sunjata) tore through Julia (Debra Messing) and her pathetic Bombshell book. And wouldn’t you know it – everything he said was “Totally True.”

Peter basically claimed that Bombshell was all song, no book – something we’ve been bitching about since the beginning. (Seriously, did the guy read The SMASH Reality Index or what?) The same thing seemed destined to happen with Hit List – the new show within a show by newcomers Jimmy Collins (Jeremy Jordan) and Kyle Bishop (Andy Mientus). We were worried we may never get to see a competent book writer portrayed on SMASH. Lucky for us, by the episode’s end, not only did we get to see a skeleton of the Hit List plot, but it appears Peter has finally lit a spark under Julia’s lazy ass. Once again, the dramaturg did it – but this time, that’s actually a good thing. 

Here’s how the rest of the episode broke down, Reality Index-wise.

Totally True
• We can’t tell what’s more '90s about Karen Cartwright’s “Good for You” fantasy. The crowd-surfing? The cutoff shirt? The red chunky hair extensions? Plus 100 because that’s what a girl from Iowa would imagine Rock 'n’ Roll looks like.
• Plus 5 for this being a Drew Gasparini song though!
• Eileen wants a “fresh eye” on Bombshell’s book, and suggests the aid of a dramaturg. “It’s a very common practice these days,” she tells Julia and Tom. “Most of the big shows use one to retool the book.” That’s totally true, Eileen. Pulling a “show doctor” in before Broadway is a common tool used by many a show. cough cough Leap of Faith cough cough Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark cough cough
• Julia thinks she can address the problems with the book by simply reordering the scenes. That’s soooo Julia. (Also, can you guys imagine how bad that book to Heaven on Earth is? Yeek.)
• Ivy Lynn does her best Kristen Chenoweth impression during her audition for the ensemble of Liasons.
• “Every actress in town wants to do Cécile,” says Bernie. We’re sure not every actress, but if Bernie Telsey says it, we’ll believe it!
• Jennifer Hudson Veronica Moore sings the fuck out of “Home.” And looks flawless doing it. “The Wiz has never sounded better,” says Derek, in the understatement of a lifetime.
• “This should feel now, not dated,” says Derek about The Wiz. ‘Cause only Derek Wills would think that what we all really want to see is a modern-day Wiz.
• Derek Wills tells Veronica, “Producers rarely have vision, that’s why they need [directors] to show it to them.” That arrogant fuck! We missed you so!
• Julia looks up the dramaturg on IBDB. Plus 50, but next time try Playbill Vault. 
• "A man who makes his living feeding off of the work of other writers without creating anything of his own is not a shepherd,” says Julia, of a dramaturg. “He’s a parasite.” Actually, he’s a few tweeters that we won’t call out by name.
• Daniel Sunjata plays Peter Gilman, the professional dramaturg of our dreams. Plus 100 for HUBBA HUBBA.
• There were Houston/Levitt nights at Joe’s Pub. Two of them. Plus 20.
• Peter tells Tom and Julia that one of their shows didn’t get “a fair shake in The Times.” Even dramaturgs know what writers want to hear.
• After Peter leaves, Tom tells Julia “he seems pretty creditable.” We’re pretty sure that’s code for cute.
• Julia hates coffee. She would.
• Peter tells Julia that “Bombshell is not a Broadway musical. It’s a biopic. There’s no character development outside of the songs, which are admittedly the best part.” He then later refers to it as “two-dimensional.” From what we’ve seen so far, this is totally accurate (though that didn’t stop Chaplin or Scandalous from coming to Broadway).
• Julia thinks her book was good because “the audience cried when Marilyn died” and “we had standing ovations every night!” She would use that as a barometer for success, but have you been to Broadway lately? It’s filled with sub-par shows where people cry at trite emotional moments and give standing ovations at curtain call, no matter how bad the crap they just sat through was. Believe us – we both saw Baby It’s You.
• Can every episode of SMASH include Ivy Lynn singing “They Just Keep Moving the Line?” Bonus points if it happens by cutting away from Karen singing!
• Ivy Lynn claims that she’s only seen the Dangerous Liaisons movie. She would say this even if she's obviously only seen Cruel Intentions.
• Tom “wanted to be reminded of his initial instincts before jumping back into [Bombshell],” so he watches videos of Ivy Lynn as Marilyn. That’s what we do before each episode of SMASH!
• Ivy Lynn says that “real names like Jennifer Damiano and Jessie Mueller” are auditioning for Cécile. The theater geeks in us are excited to hear those folks referred to as “real names,” but the TV-viewer/reality-liver in us knows that they aren’t.
• Eileen Rand claims she’s “juggling chainsaws here,” which is the best visual we’ve had all season.
• Julia says she’s pretty sure Peter doesn’t even want to call the show Bombshell. Great, because that’s a terrible title.
• Peter apparently lied to Julia about seeing Bombshell in Boston. He saw it 4 times! We’d probably lie about that too.
• “No one has invested more in this show than I have,” Eileen tells a whiny Julia. “And if you don’t want to do the work, I will find somebody who will.” Plus 100 because YOU DON’T FUCK WITH THE MONEY.  
• Peter and Julia get into a heated discussion re: the book. Peter claims that Julia took the sex out of “the greatest sex symbol in history” by focusing on her domestic relationship with Joe DiMaggio. “Maybe you focused on Joe because you were sleeping the actor who played him,” Peter reminds Julia. “Where was the steam on the window?” he asks. “The slow strip tease? The heat?” PLUS 500 BECAUSE THIS SCENE IS EVERYTHING AND GURL KNOWS HOW TO REEEEAAAD A BITCH.
• In the midst of the aforementioned argument, Julia claims, “Women buy the majority of tickets on Broadway.” Goddammit she’s right – but gay men are a close second!  
• “Ivy has a great eye,” Derek tells Karen while inviting Ivy to observe rehearsal. “She can tell us where we’ve going wrong.” Um… we’re pretty sure casting Karen in the first place is what Ivy/everyone would say.
• Plus 10,000 for Ivy Lynn singing Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.” Yes, it was a dream sequence, but at least we didn’t have to hear Karen sing “I Just Keep Moving the Line.” And it’s IVY LYNN! SINGING ROBYN! OMFG!
• Jimmy has blood on his lip because he’s tough and also because Jeremy Jordan misses playing Clyde.
• “I don’t blame you for yawning,” Ivy tells Tom, when rehearsing for her Cécile audition. “I’m so boring. And my accent is horrible.” That didn’t stop Lilla Crawford from getting Annie!
• It’s time for a new feature we like to call, “THE ANN HARADA LINE OF THE WEEK!” “Tom? 5 minutes…” CONGRATULATIONS ANN!
• Karen Cartwright recorded the Kyle Bishop and Jimmy Collins demo for free. Because obviously she wouldn’t know to charge for that sort of work.
• Julia writes a new number about the first time JFK and Marilyn have sex, and then claims it was her idea even though Peter clearly pushed her into doing that. Plus 20 because Julia probably thinks it was her idea to stop wearing scarves too.
• Ivy tells Tom he’d be a great director. “You understand style and intention and you know how to get the best out of people without torturing them,” she says. First of all, Plus 10 on that shade you just threw to Derek. Second of all, Plus 20 because dammit we agree (and we’re pretty sure that’s the plan for his character). 
• Jimmy refers to his musical as “a bunch of crap I just scribbled down when I was wasted.“ MAN HE’S BAD ASS.
• Can the entire series be Peter and Julia arguing? These fights actually have something SMASH has been struggling to find the entire time: substance.
• The plot of Hit List, Jimmy and Kyle’s musical, is basically foreshadowing what Jimmy’s relationship with Karen Cartwright is going to be, right? Are we the only ones who think this sounds kind of bad?
• “There’s all these other characters too,” supporting player Kyle says after leading actor Jimmy describes the plot of Hit List. #Awwwwww

Oh Hell No!
• This week’s episode opens with another dream sequence. Minus 10 because those were supposed to be gone with season 1.
• Derek won’t consider looking into the new musical without reading the book first. Um, that didn’t stop him with Bombshell.
• Derek also claims he doesn’t want to get involved in this new musical because “new musicals take years to develop.” Um, we’re pretty sure Bombshell took 15 episodes to develop last season.
• As much as we’ll praise Eileen for thinking about bringing in a dramaturg to help with the book, she really should have involved a dramaturg from the beginning, as he/she could have helped with costumes, sets – hell, maybe even that terrible artwork.
• Minus 100 for not giving us a full-fledged Jennifer Hudson Veronica Moore performance of “Home.” There better be an mp3, dammit.
• In order to get his directing job back, Derek agrees to stage a number for The Wiz for producers, acting once again like so above auditioning despite us knowing he did the same thing with Bombshell in the SMASH pilot.  
• Julia fears that if people hear Bombshell has a dramaturg, they will think the show is in trouble. That’s probably true, but we’re pretty sure everyone already thinks the show is in trouble based on the fact that they still don’t have a theater or sound financing.
• We were remiss last episode to not mention the RIDICULOUS new opening credit sequence. WTF IS THAT!?! The only good thing is that we at least get Anjelica Huston throwing a drink each week, but even that is wearing thin.
• They may be out there, but we doubt there’s any dramaturg out there who has made enough money from script doctoring to afford an apartment like that.
• Peter thinks the audience reacted so positively to Bombshell because “it was Boston.” Funny, but again – even New Yorkers have bad taste when it comes to Broadway.  
• JIMMY COLLINS SMOKES?!? We get that he’s supposed to be a bad boy, but MINUS EVERYTHING. #GROSS
• Minus 200 for making us Google this Liasons cast recording that Ivy claims is out of print, only to find out the show Tom claims is a “lost gem” that “Madeline Kahn got nominated for featured” for is a totally made up show. DAMMIT WE WANTED THIS TO BE REAL.
• During rehearsal, Karen snaps at Derek, telling him “I understand the song, thanks,” as if she were a snotty teenager. Later, she yells, “I don’t understand what you want. I’m not sure you do either!” Look, we get that Karen Cartwright is supposed to have an ego now, and supposed to feel like she’s hot shit, but no one – especially an actor who struggled for so many years for her big break – would be acting this obnoxious this early on.
• Also, are you going to take that shit from Karen Cartwright, Derek Wills?
• While we’re squashing plot points, enough with the Ivy pining after Derek/Marilyn! It’s getting as tired as we are writing these recaps at 2 in the morning!
• Ivy says Cécile is Marilyn, and then Tom points out that Cécile/Marilyn is really Ivy, deep down. WE GET IT SMASH. WE GOT IT LAST SEASON WITH IVY’S PILL ADDICTION TOO! YOU DON’T NEED TO KEEP SPELLING IT OUT!
• “Our Little Secret” was a great song that clearly addressed a problem that Bombshell was lacking. But can we all agree that Karen Cartwright has the sex appeal of a toothbrush?
• Jimmy comes into the Bombshell rehearsal. Surly Linda the stage manager would have stopped him!
• Eileen claims that “Our Little Secret” has “glamour, power, sex,” therefore encompassing “the new Broadway.” Right Eileen. Just like Once. And The Book of Mormon. And Memphis. And Billy Elliot
• Ivy Lynn was cast as Cécile. OVER JESSIE MUELLER?
• Also, she’d never know she got that job so fast.
• How did Karen and Jimmy get from the rehearsal studio in Times Square to the Flatiron building so fast?
• Jimmy is acting like a little shit, expecting everyone to drop everything and produce his musical. We’re pretty sure the dude who bartends and lives in Greenpoint and plays his songs on the bar’s piano when no one is around would have a little patience.
• Jennifer Hudson Veronica Moore drops out of The Wiz to do a one-night-only show.  “If I’m going to grow, I got to take this chance.” Wouldn’t a limited engagement be a better chance? This seems like a stupid idea.
• Also, Jennifer Hudson Veronica Moore’s decision to drop out of The Wiz was inspired by what she saw during “Our Little Secret.” Really? It wasn’t that inspiring. Imagine what she would have done if she saw Ivy Lynn perform “Let’s Be Bad”!
• Derek and Karen are outside the rehearsal studio again – which is apparently in the Flatiron building now. THIS MAKES NO SENSE, YOU GUYS. THOSE ARE PUBLISHING OFFICES!
• Sorry, but Derek Wills would never go to Greenpoint.
• Derek says Hit List is “A Star is Born plus Hamlet with a bit of Romeo and Juliet.” Kyle adds, “Moulin Rouge, Gaga, and JT LeRoy.” WHY IS NO ONE SAYING AMERICAN IDIOT?
• Minus 200 because Jeremy Jordan didn’t sing a lick during this episode.

So how’d we do this time around? Any glaring omissions? Comment away!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Much Ado About Cake

Photo credit: Gerry Goodstein
Theatre For a New Audience might be overtaking--or at least tied with--The Public Theatre as the most reliable theater company for putting on Shakespeare. You can see its delightful revival of Much Ado About Nothing through April 6 at the Duke on 42nd Street (the company will soon be moving to a permanent space in Brooklyn).

Whether a production of Much Ado works depends mostly on the casting of Benedick and Beatrice, the characters engaged in a war of wits and tricked into falling in love by Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, and Claudio, an officer like Benedick. This production succeeds on that front with the casting of Jonathan Cake and Maggie Siff. The sparks fly between them and they make the Bard's words fresh. But it is the charismatic and seductive Cake who steals the show. It is easy to see why Beatrice falls for him (though you wonder what took so long). They rest of the cast is fine with another standout in John Christopher Jones's Dogberry. He excels at playing bumbling fools. Arbus once again proves to have a great understanding of Shakespeare's plays, making them accessible, but also not shying away from the darker undercurrents. In one of the subplots, Claudio (Matthew Amendt) is tricked by Don Pedro's (Graham Winton) brother Don John (Saxon Palmer) into thinking that his intended Hero (Michelle Beck) has slept with another man.

Ricardo Hernandez sets an appropriate lighthearted tone with a simple set of not much more than a clothesline of laundry and a swing. Also adding to the atmosphere is Michael Friedman's charming score, performed by Spiff Wiegand.

At Least The Set Is Cool

Part of The New Group's mission statement is to do ambitious work that pushes the boundaries of theater. I applaud this goal, but sometimes taking risks pays off, and sometimes you end up with a pretentious bore, as is the case with the company's latest, Clive.
"One Song Glory" (actually Vincent D'Onofrio and Ethan Hawke); Photo credit: Monique Carboni
Clive is Jonathan Marc Sherman's adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's first play, Baal, but it has been updated to the 1990s. It stars Ethan Hawke, who also directs, as the self-destructive musician Clive surrounded by a rotating cast of characters. Hawke has assembled a strong ensemble--in particular Zoe Kazan is adorably amusing as his innocent lovers and Vincent D'Onofrio is a striking presence as his friend Doc. But aside from fleeting moments of entertainment, it is hard to care about what happens, not that much does. I am all for new interpretations of old works, but there should be a reason for the choices. The 90s are a suitable time period to depict debauchery and drugs, but the show does not say anything new or interesting about Baal or the time period, though you get the feeling that the creative team thinks they are.

At least there is Derek McLane's set of colorful doors and beer cans to look at. The doors are also adorned with instruments which create a musical landscape by GAINES, the duo which also provided a strong soundtrack for Hawke's effective production of A Lie of the Mind. He didn't star in that production, so I would say that perhaps he should stick to directing, but his acting wasn't the problem here either. At least he appears to be enjoying himself, even if most of the audience doesn't.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Behind The Music-al at 92Y Tribeca

As is often the case on Mondays, there were a ton of events last night for theater people to choose from, like the In The Heights reunion concert and the NAMT songwriter concert at 54 Below, so you might have missed Behind The Music-al: Just Add Music at 92YTribeca. So I'm here to tell you what you missed.

Behind The Music-al is an ongoing series about up-and-coming musical theater composers. Past guests have included Adam Guettel, Joe Iconis, and Ryan Scott Oliver. This week's guests were Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) and Laurence O'Keefe (Bat Boy: The Musical, Legally Blonde: The Musical). The series is curated by Kyle Ewalt and Michael Walker (Bromance: The Dudesical).

O'Keefe was the moderator and the format was fairly casual, with performances interspersed with conversation about the writing behind the songs. First up were performances from musicals that Ewalt and Walker are working on--Pumped, about the world of designer shoes, and Separate: Battle Songs of Youth. Separate actually began as an adaptation of A Seperate Peace, which they didn't have the rights to. They ended up not being able to get the rights, but they liked the music they had written, and decided to write a new book to fit those songs. The theme of the evening was just add music (as in adding music to preexisting material, like a movie), so this led to an interesting discussion about letting the music dictate the story or vice versa as well as making sure you have the rights to something before you adapt it.

Next up, O'Keefe presented a song from Walk of Shame, which actually started as an idea for a raunchy movie musical, but since there apparently isn't a lot of demand for that (crazy, right?), it might end up being a stage musical. Of all the shows we heard from that night, this is the one I most want to see, though I honestly hope to get to see all of them. The next musical he talked about, Life of the Party, about the music industry in Stalin's Soviet Russia, also sounded fascinating.  The last song was from Heathers, a musical adaptation of the movie.

O'Keefe frequently collaborates with his wife, Nell Benjamin, who is apparently working on a musical adaptation of Because of Winn Dixie with Duncan Sheik (if this was already announced, I'd forgotten about it). Sheik didn't sing anything from that, but did sing songs from Whisper House, Nero, and The Nightingale (backed by a string quartet!).  He closed with a song not from theater, which seemed out of place for the evening, but it was still a good song, so I can't complain too much. Except I would have preferred he close with something from American Psycho.

The next Behind The Music-al will be in April and the lineup hasn't been announced yet, but I encourage anyone interested in the behind the scenes of musical theater to check it out.

Song List:
1) "Back to the Drawing Board" from Pumped (Ewalt and Walker)
2) "Woe Is Us" from Pumped (Ewalt and Walker)
3)"Fat Old Man" from Battle Songs (Ewalt and Walker)
4) "Not Worried (Split Screen Love Duet)" from Walk of Shame (O'Keefe)
5) "Honey I'm Home" from Life of the Party (O'Keefe) (turns out this was a trunk song from Legally Blonde that fit really well!)
6) Song from Heathers (Didn't catch the name, but it was sung by the character of Martha Dumptruck before attempting to kill herself) (O'Keefe)
7) "The Tale of Solomon Snell" from Whisper House (Sheik)
8) "The Lover from Hell" from Nero (Sheik)
9) "My Extraordinary Past" from The Nightingale (Sheik)
10) "Such Reveries" (Sheik)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Contest: Win Tickets to NEWSical

Update: The contest is now closed. The winner was picked at random. Congratulations Jax!

Happy Monday! This week, I'm giving away a pair of tickets to NEWSical the Musical at Theatre Row. NEWSical, created by Rick Crom, is a musical mocking the news. It is constantly updated with new material spoofing current events, celebrities, and politicians. Emmy Award winner Carson Kressley is now in the show through March 3.

Since it's almost Valentine's Day, this week's contest has a Valentine's Day theme. To be entered to win a pair of tickets to Newsical, leave a comment on this post telling me which character from a play or musical you'd want to be your Valentine. For an extra entry, tweet about the contest or retweet one of my tweets about it. You must be following on Twitter for the extra entry. A winner will be chosen at random from all the entries on Friday, February 15 at 5:30 p.m. Please include your e-mail address or Twitter handle in the comments so I have a way to contact you if you win. The winner will receive a ticket voucher redeemable for two tickets to a performance of his or her choice through March 30, 2013 (blackout dates and restrictions may apply). Good luck! 

If you don't win tickets, you can still see the show using this discount offer:

$51.25 tickets (All performances except Saturday)
$55.25 tickets (Saturday performances)

ONLINE: Visit and use code TRNRRM
PHONE: Call 212.947.8844 and mention code TRNRRM
IN PERSON: Bring this offer to Theatre Row Box Office
(Box Office Hours: Monday – Sunday, Noon to 8pm)

RESTRICTIONS: (Reg $86.25) Subject to availability. Not valid on prior purchase. Offer cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions; blackout dates and restrictions may apply. No refunds or exchanges. Offer may be revoked at any time. All discounts include $1.25 fee. Standard service fees apply to all phone and internet orders.