Smash Season 1 Episode 4 Review

Anjelica Houston’s Eileen has been blathering on about money since day one. But it only bears mentioning this week, when it depresses her to the point of forgetting to throw a drink in anyone’s face. Julia visits her office, but is so self-centred and theatre she doesn’t even notice that Eileen is mute, unresponsive, and groping down the back of the sofa for coins. As Eileen keeps telling everyone, she only needs $200k to fund the Marilyn workshop. Unfortunately, due to her impending divorce, she only has access to $8k and an original Degas sketch which happens to hang in her office.

The way they’d all been banging on about ‘Workshop’, I assumed it would be held in some remote Camp David retreat setting and include musical related fights to the death. However it just looks like a bog standard rehearsal, in their bog standard rehearsal room, with just the normal amount of bitching. Marilyn reject Karen has been cast in the chorus (or ensemble – there’s some confusion over what they prefer to be called, fact remains they’re just the backing singers). Since the rest of the chorus are all BFFs with Ivy Lynn, the star of the show, their welcome to Karen isn’t exactly warm. ‘Could she be more Midwest?’ Indeed.

Ivy Lynn is taking her first day as leading lady seriously. She arrives at rehearsals just that little bit later, wearing her sunglasses indoors, and expressing just the right amount of humble surprise at the spontaneous applause which greets her. She’s not impressed to see Karen in the cast, but throws a couple of diva strops to muscle her out of most of the numbers. Karen takes all this on the chin until one of her peers lets slip that ‘Ivy’s doing the nasty with the Dark Lord’ (sleeping with the director), at which point she’s officially pissed off. She has a strop at one of the other chorus girls, throws in the ‘us lowly backing singers have to stick together’ card, and before you can say ‘from the top’ the entire ensemble have switched allegiance and are hugging Karen and screaming ‘MAKEOVER!’

The new gang run back to Karen’s house for some making piles of clothes, Chinese takeaway and screeching, while Dev hangs around looking bemused and saying things like ‘You guys are worse than the New York press!’. Because he likes to throw in a reminder every few minutes that he works at the Mayor’s office, instead of something trivial like The Arts. Her new mates show Karen some synchronised dance routine, the moral of which is never made explicit, but is probably something about there being ‘no I in team’. Or, ‘You are not the lead, Karen! For crying out loud, tone down the jazz hands!’

Random storyline of the week goes to Lyle West (played by a Jonas Brother), the mega rich child star currently enjoying sitcom success, who started his career on Broadway after being discovered by Tom or Derek, depending on who you ask. Lyle’s having a birthday party, so Eileen goes along, dragging her original Degas behind her, and is all ‘Remember when I funded your first stage show? Look at the pretty picture. Give me investment!’ But French Impressionism is not enough to win the young star over, so the cast all leap up and give an impromptu performance from Marilyn to talk him around. Lyle is so blown away he doesn’t just agree to chip in, he sings ‘Tell me where can I sign on the dotted line?’ and starts playing along with his electric guitar. To a half written song from a half written musical that he’s never heard before. Wow.

Since Karen and her lowly dancing pals don’t get to go to fancy cocktail parties with French art and Jonas brothers, they schlep off to a grimy club instead. Dev swoops at the bar ‘I’ll get these. I work at the Mayor’s office, don’t you know?’ Meanwhile one of the dancers has a quick word with the dj, and Karen’s ensemble is soon up on the stage, performing their little chorus number to a bunch of bemused pool players. And they said Manhattan was classy. Frankly this is no better than the Iowa karaoke scene from last week. Karen manages all of 10 seconds doing the synchronised dancing bit, before shoving them all out of the way and belting out a solo number. Ivy Lynn should watch out.