The final five episodes of Smash have certainly upped the drama. As the webs become more tangled and the emotions run even higher, the fate of the Marilyn musical (finally named Bombshell) hangs in the balance.
One of the biggest developments is the whirlwind known as Rebecca Duvall, the movie star (played by Uma Thurman) with zero musical theatre experience, a lackluster voice, and a lot of creative input for Tom, Julia, and Derek. Normally, what goes on in the workshop process is kept highly confidential, but Broadway history is littered with cases of nationally recognized film and television actors winning roles because of their power to sell tickets. When Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard came to New York from London, Glenn Close was given the lead role of Norma Desmond, much to the chagrin of Broadway veteran Patti LuPone (Evita, Gypsy), who famously did not, and does not, suffer the loss silently.
Bombshell heads for an out-of-town tryout in Boston (in a montage accompanied by Christian Borle’s rendition of “Another Op’nin’, Another Show” from Kiss Me Kate). Unfortunately, Ted, the new Joe DiMaggio (played by Broadway vet Tony Yazbeck (Chicago, White Christmas)), gets a pilot and leaves the production, only to be replaced by Julia’s worst nightmare, Michael Swift, the only man who can save the day on such short notice. Along with film work, TV is often much more lucrative than stage acting, so Broadway actors often segue into those arenas or do enough of it to finance their true passion of live performance. Sutton Foster recently took a leave of absence from her Tony-winning turn as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes to film the pilot of ABC Family’s Bunheads, and she recently left to film the series (thankfully, the reins were taken by the talented Stephanie J. Block (Wicked, The Pirate Queen)). And The Book of Mormon‘s Andrew Rannells is starring in the NBC series The New Normal, although thankfully he is staying with the hit musical to play Elder Price for another year.
In the penultimate episode, “Previews,” we see some more of Bombshell, including a number starring Broadway actor Mark Kudisch (9 to 5, Assassins) as one of Marilyn’s producers, and we are treated to cameos by the show’s songwriting team, Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can). Speaking of rare treats, they even got Anjelica Huston to sing an elegant rendition of “September Song,” which was made famous by her grandfather, Walter Huston, who performed it in the 1938 Broadway musical Knickerbocker Holiday.
In the final episode of the season, we are teased with tricky camera angles until it is finally revealed that Karen is Rebecca’s replacement. And it is getting harder to root for the plucky and deserving Ivy, especially since she slept with Karen’s boyfriend, Dev. Karen rises to the occasion, but we are left pitying Ivy as her (deliciously) bitchy attitude melts away to reveal the disappointment and despair of a lost love and a missed opportunity.
The season ends with enough triumph to feel satisfied, but enough balls in the air to warrant serious yearning for the second season premiere. Will Bombshell make it to Broadway? Will Julia’s family be able to endure the complications of her infidelity? Will Karen be able to handle the pressure of a starring role without the support of a loving fiance? And does Ivy have enough self-confidence and drive left to motivate her to keep following her dreams? Tune in to find out; the countdown to Season 2 begins…