This review does contain spoilers.
Continuing with the arduous audition process took up the majority of last night’s episode of Smash where Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) fought it out for the role of Marilyn Monroe. Though they were pitted against each other, neither of the two were the antagonist. Both girls were favourites of the casting team, and yet Ivy Lynn was cast as Marilyn towards the end of the episode. Of course, it seems beyond inevitable that something will arise to place Karen back into the Marilyn ring. Both Hilty and McPhee are particularly good, with both getting adequate chances to show off their strong voices.
Choices are at the helm of the episode outside of the general casting decision, with an overriding theme of choosing career over personal relationships. Karen’s boyfriend Dev (Raza Jaffrey) is terribly annoyed when she didn’t make it to an important work related dinner after being held back at the auditions. Dev’s presence, like so many boyfriends/husbands in mainstream stories about any woman with a career, is rendered as fearful and castrated. The stereotype usually becomes angry, jealous and intolerably boring while the career minded woman sets out to achieve her goal. Hopefully Dev won’t be placed in this category.
Julia Houston (Debra Messing) also faced a tough time when her adoption plans were given an estimated processing time. After spearheading the adoption plans, Frank (Brian d’Arcy James) momentarily contemplated backing out of the adoption. Seeing an interesting role reversal, Julia’s letter to the likely mother of her future child was quite touching providing Messing with a very moving scene during the group adoption meeting. Until Frank appeared, it seemed for a second that Julia might be going the process alone, making for one very interesting storyline. Unfortunately, Frank reappeared and it seems he is back with the adoption idea.
Anjelica Huston was once again sassy as Eileen. Her character may have started off fairly one dimensional as the divorced single producer with something to prove, but there is a vulnerability that will surely be expanded on. And with an actress such as Huston, it would be a crime to leave the character undeveloped.
Smash sheds a fairly standard glimpse into the very competitive world of Broadway, and yet seems to spend less time on the creative process, instead focusing on the star making aspect. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman showcase their very fine talents with yet another new song that smartly and briefly surmises the difference between Hollywood’s studios in the age of the studio system. Creator Theresa Rebeck wrote the episode, and along with confident direction from Michael Mayer, saw a smooth transition from the pilot to the second episode.