Along with the opening number and finale, the first scene after the interval is crucial to any musical production. Worrying, then, that episode two doesn’t start well. Cold opening with a girl singing on stage before transitioning to reality in the pilot is fair enough. But don’t do exactly the same thing the following week. You’re better than that Smash. Especially when the daydream is of Karen as a lounge singer (shouldn’t she be aiming higher?), and the reality is Karen waitressing, wearing what can only be described as a string tuxedo (shouldn’t she be wearing more clothes?)
The battle to be cast as Marilyn continues, with Ivy and Karen fighting it out in a series of dance call backs, singing numbers, and sitting around nervously in the corridor scenes. It’s ’10 years in the chorus’ versus ‘a complete neophyte’. ‘Trying too hard’ versus ‘green doesn’t even begin to cover it’. Blah, blah, blah. Thankfully, for all our sanity, this battle isn’t dragged out much longer. Marilyn is cast before the episode is out.
Out in The Real World, Karen’s boyfriend Dev is working his way up the ranks in the Mayor’s office. He’s pretty, charming, and even the press pack laugh at his jokes. If this was West Wing, he’d absolutely be CJ. Dev gets feverishly over-excited when he finds out the Marilyn director making his girlfriend’s life hell and trying to sleep with her concurrently is a fellow Brit. Because that’s what UK citizens do when they live in New York: spend their time hunting down other Britons to reminisce about fish & chips with.
Dev is being considered for promotion. He has to impress his big boss man at some fancy dinner. ‘Don’t worry, I know it’s important’ says Karen, guaranteeing she won’t be make it. This is Show Business lesson number one: no one will be able to rely on you ever again. Luckily, Dev is so super nice that he sulks for all of five seconds and then gets over it. He really is disarmingly pleasant. Keep an eye on that one.
Co-writer Julia & her husband Frank are in the process of adopting a baby. Unfortunately for them ‘it takes longer to adopt a baby than it did to write West Side Story’. (Imagine if theatre was the universally agreed unit of time. ‘My dad is as old as The Mousetrap’s continuous West End run’. ‘The meeting is scheduled to last the length of Les Miserables, Act 1’.) Frank decides he can’t be arsed to wait another two years for the adorable little bundle of dirty nappies & sleepless nights, and that he wants to jack in this adoption nonsense and go back to being a Science teacher. He’s clearly just watched the Breaking Bad box set and is getting money making ideas above his station.
Back in the dance studio, the two hopefuls are Twentieth Century Fox Mamboing to the death. Derek is on hand, chucking clichés like ‘Don’t do her. Be her.’ He’s painfully cocky, in the way only someone talented enough to take on the dual roles of director & choreographer can be. Nonetheless, his ‘The song was so good we just went ahead and staged the whole thing.’ line is impressively cool.
As the episode climaxes, it transpires that experience won out, and Ivy is cast as the lead in Marilyn. But, this being theatre, it’s fair to say that nothing is certain until the perfect hourglass lady sings.