‘Fade iiiin on a girl, with a huuuunger for fame, and a face and a name to remeeeember.’ If nothing else, we’ll always have the song. The 15 week journey through auditions, call backs, rehearsals, workshop, workshop performance day, tech (‘I’M IN TECH!’) and live shows in Boston may have left you battered, bruised, foetal and hell bent on never entering a theatre again. But you have to admit it’s been fun to belt out that song over the top of their dramas every week. What a tune!
The show opens with a teaser scene shot through the eyes of the Marilyn actress as she prepares to take to the stage. Only we don’t know which actress it is yet! Tension abounds! Sadly, rather than using the finale to showcase the end result and play the Bombshell musical in full, we’re going back 12 hours to see the preceding shambles which will eventually lead to one of the two actresses being chucked on stage, quite possibly at random, to perform it. This mainly involves Derek flinging his way through the costume rail, trying to make a casting decision while reminiscing about Karen & Ivy performances past. It’s essentially a clip show, with a brief nod to the fact that Derek had the occasional daydream about Karen in a couple of episodes. Honestly, he did. You might not have noticed, distracted by more interesting things like the Mayor’s Office and crazy drunken Ivy, but it definitely happened. Remember that, it’s important.
So what other loose ends need tying up? Well, there’s the comeuppance of Evil Ellis, which turns out to be the biggest anti-climax of all time. He throws his weight around, Eileen demeans him by sending him on a Starbucks run, so he admits to peanut-poisoning Rebecca Duvall, (expecting praise, director credits, the world) and she promptly fires him. It’s unsatisfactory. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Worst character ever. Anything else? Oh, well the musical isn’t actually finished yet, but that’s standard for Tom & Julia. They have mainly taught us that the creative process involves sitting on the stairs of the theatre lobby doing rewrites until they’re almost completely trampled by audience members, at which point the end song will finally be deemed finished, and whichever lucky actress has been chosen to play Marilyn will have approximately 15 minutes of interval time in which to learn it.
Approximately 12 hours until curtain up, and still none the wiser on who will be the chosen one, Eileen’s ex Jerry shows up. Despite a less than enthusiastic welcome from Eileen (well, he did kind of take all her money and try to ruin her show) he assures her that he’s here to help. Perhaps he could be Marilyn? Do you think he knows the songs? Elsewhere Julia is throwing up, and she never throws up, so this can only mean that she might be pregnant, depending on whether or not they decide to run with the pregnancy storyline in season two. If not, just forget that whole vomit scene ever happened. And look, while we’re being random, here’s a Jonas Brother to lend his support! Remember the one with the party and the original Degas sketch? I wonder if the Jonas Brother could step in to play the lead? I doubt his voice has broken yet.
And so to the question they’ve been trying to answer since 30 minutes into episode one: Karen or Ivy? Derek’s decided it has to be Karen, because he sees her, in his head. He ploughs on with this sketchy reasoning, letting Ivy down gently with the words ‘She just has something that you don’t.’ Oh Derek, she’s fragile! You know that! And you’re supposed to be her boyfriend! And you’re 12 hours away from a show that you don’t need ruining by a prescription drug based overdose! Luckily for us all, Ivy only tries to sabotage the show by telling Karen she slept with Dev (saving any hint of the ingestion of substance in quantities greater than recommended for the encore). In the way these things often do in theatre based tv dramas, this confession of adultery only serves to make Karen stronger, and give a better performance. She may also have been helped by an almighty pep talk / declaration of love from Derek, which somewhat passed me by after he opened with the words ‘You dropped bits of Marilyn [costume] along the way, like bird crumbs.’ Bird crumbs, Derek? What the hell are bird crumbs?!
So Karen is Marilyn. Not that we’d really know it, as there’s so little time left for the actual musical that she doesn’t even get to do the ‘Norma Jean’s gooone, she’s moving oooon’ line before they’ve merged into the next song of a Bombshell montage. Lack of time doesn’t stop them from showing ‘Lexington & 52nd Street’, the angry Michael Swift song, almost in its entirety though. Booooo, Michael Swift! And after no one clapped at the previous Rebecca Duvall suicide ending, Tom & Julia‘s lobby written closing number, which Karen’s never seen before, let alone performed, all works out perfectly. Derek manages to direct himself into her ear just before she goes on, in order to profess his love. And Karen, who was always going to be the winner, what with being ‘too green’, possessing too many morals, and generally not knowing any better, belts out the final song of her debut Marilyn performance. Which, pleasingly, ends with a kind of reprise of the opening song ‘Please let me be their staaaar’. And completely deserved applause.