The first major make or break moment for the team of “Marilyn the Musical” arrives as the seventh episode of Smash airs. The time has finally come for the workshop, and tensions could not be higher. Julia (Debra Messing) and Michael’s (Will Chase) affair is dangerously spiralling out of control and the arrival of Ivy’s (Megan Hilty) mother pushes her close to the edge.
As adultery is usually the thematic fodder for soap operas and serials, the placement within Smash has often seemed a tad out of place. However, the exploration of infidelity has held prolonged interest over the first half of the season. Lusty exchanges and steamy moments held centre stage instead of the usual anguish and guilt which is sure to follow in further episodes.
Back on the stage, Ivy’s life continues to mirror Marilyn’s as the episodes continue. Since her sickness, a drug dependency storyline has been hinted at, and it seems that it is almost set in stone now with Ivy taking both sleeping pills and steroids to combat sickness. The pressure of her mother coming to town only worsens the situation. Broadway star Bernadette Peters plays Ivy’s mother (a Tony award winning star, like Peters herself], and seems to embody the stage mother persona with absolute perfection. They even get her to sing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy! A confrontational scene towards the end of the episode sees Ivy detailing the struggles she faces with a dominating mother. She compares their relationship with Marilyn’s own traumatic relationship with her mother.
Amidst the trials and tribulations, the workshop is finally performed to a group of potential investors. Karen (Katharine McPhee) has a moral dilemma as she records a demo with a famed music producer who wants her back in the studio while the workshop is on. Naturally, Karen is a good girl and her dedications lie primarily with the musical.
Seven full minutes of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s songs are thankfully included as the workshop takes place, highlighting Smash’s greatest asset: the music. Hilty is at her best during the musical numbers, as are most of the cast. Messing is in fine form once again as the heat in the rehearsal room literally boils her own already steamed temperatures. Anjelica Huston continues to delight as the feisty Eileen and is even given a potential love interest with her local and friendly bartender.
Smash parallels the “Marilyn” creative journey as it tests out some themes and scenes which could use some work. The songs however are the selling point and each episode adds more layers and elements that will make a stunning first season.