SMASH Recap: The Cost of Art
February 28, 2012 by Erik Wilkinson
The beauty of this week’s SMASH was in its simplicity. In one hour of television, the central organizing principle of the show’s fictitious “Marilyn: the Musical” was clearly explained through each character.
“The Cost of Art” demonstrated that a successful stage production requires shared sacrifice from every participant. No matter whether those concessions are personal, professional, or emotional, the show may only go on if the cast and crew are willing to put themselves below the franchise.
Megan Hilty oozes the sexuality and come-hither attitude that Marilyn Monroe brought to the big screen. As Ivy Lynn, Hilty is bold, flirty, and emotionally accessible to the men around her. From her entrance at the first day of the workshop to her raucous performance at Lyle’s birthday party, Ivy lives the persona of a superstar. Beneath the blonde hair and fetching curves, however, a fragile woman is showing the wear and tear of professional jealousy. Karen’s presence in “Marilyn” poses threats, both real and conjured, for Ivy’s personal and professional ambitions. I am all-in on Hilty’s choices in playing these scenes, because she personifies the mindset that it truly is lonely at the top.
Karen Cartwright remains the audience’s proxy, but the bliss of being unaware of the backstage machinations of Broadway has worn off. Flabbergasted by the discovery of Ivy & Derek’s trysts and shunned by her colleagues in the chorus, Karen reached a breaking point. Katharine McPhee continues to impress me, gifting Karen with a little more courage each time she gets knocked down. In particular, Karen’s willingness to stand up to Jessica, Ivy’s friend in the ensemble who was initially cold towards the newbie, was a sign of both growth and humility. Karen came to Broadway to be a star, but her co-workers chipped in to show her how NOT to upstage Ivy during rehearsals. McPhee is a true television star, and I am becoming a bigger fan with each new performance and piece of character development.
If there is a weak female performer on SMASH, it is Anjelica Huston. The veteran actress is given little to do besides throw cocktails and spout off about her estranged husband, including this week’s classic, “I hate Jerry.” Can we find an Oscar-nominated performer a few lines of dialogue that open new possibilities?
Nick Jonas’ guest appearance as Lyle West, a wildly successful television star who was discovered by Tom and Derek at age 8, was an ideal complement for an episode that showcased the best of SMASH’s versatile cast. Clearly the product of a musical theater background, the former teen bop culture icon appeared to be having the time of his life. Between a barnstorming rendition of Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” and wooing Ivy to show him the sexier side of her Marilyn, Lyle was a TMZ-ready characterization of young fame.
“The Cost of Art” was the most engaging and entertaining episode of SMASH’s early run, a runaway train of music and drama that should steady the program’s ratings tumble. If you have sampled SMASH for its first four episodes, and this one failed to entertain you, I think it is safe to look elsewhere on the dial. Personally, I am looking forward to the writers’ next steps in bringing Marilyn to the Broadway stage.
What did you take away from this episode? Did Nick Jonas fit in with the ensemble cast? What did you think of the deepening divide between Karen and Ivy? Is their rivalry a prime motivation for your interest in the show? How did you react to Eileen’s creative financing plans? Is Tom’s new beau an interesting diversion, or an unnecessary addition to a busy set of storylines? I’m excited to read your opinions, so put down those playbills and chime in!
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