SMASH Don’t Give a Shit: “The Dramaturg”

According to Wikipedia, Dramaturgy is:

“a comprehensive exploration of the context in which the play resides. The dramaturg is the resident expert on the physical, social, political, and economic milieus in which the action takes place, the psychological underpinnings of the characters, the various metaphorical expressions in the play of thematic concerns; as well as on the technical consideration of the play as a piece of writing: structure, rhythm, flow, even individual word choices.”

I think it’s great that Bombshell hired a dramaturg because SMASH sure doesn’t have one.

Top 10 Times SMASH Didn’t Give a Shit and Other Things I Loved: “The Dramaturg”

1.) Show Doctor/Shmoe Doctor: Eileen hires a dramaturg to help out with Bombshell. Personally, I thought a dramaturg was that geeky looking guy that sat in the back of my college musical rehearsals and tried to come onto me by rudely questioning the authenticity of my cockney dialect. I think what SMASH means, is “show doctor,” but what the f*ck do I know? SMASH has about forty-seven Broadway dramaturgs in their cast, so it’s a wonder what doesn’t make it onto my television screen. While “dramaturg” is a fancy word, I’m not really cultured enough to use it, so from now on I’ll just say “show doctor.”

All the classic musicals have show doctors. The Addams Family, Spider-Man, Wonderland. They’re essential to the quality and success of your show. I’m glad SMASH didn’t hire an attractive actor to play Peter (Daniel Sunjata). This might distract Julia and persuade her to start messing around with him. And we know that’s not going to happen. Peter even made a joke about how he’s not messing around with Julia. That’s how we know. Because he said it.

Julia tells Peter that Bombshell was a hit in Boston. People cried when Marilyn died! Standing ovations every night! Julia defines her legitimacy as a writer by general audience response instead of informed criticism. Which totally #werks. I know my response to a musical is defined by the audience around me. I give standing ovations to every show I see on Broadway. Because I loved the show! And not at all because the tourists in front of me made it impossible to see who was bowing.

2.) Ivy’s Audition: Once again, Ivy has the best audition ever. In this episode, Ivy auditions for an ensemble (sorry…chorus) track in the Broadway revival of Liaisons (a fictional musical based on Cruel Intentions). This time, her audition is for “Bernie” Telsey, at what must also be a fictional studio. If it isn’t, then Bernie has a tricked out audition room I’ve never been privileged enough to see. He must save it for “A-Listers” like Jessie Mueller and Jenn Damiano. It looks like a living room. There’s a kitchenette. There are even two interns who could care less than Jimmy about what’s going on. These interns don’t give a shit.

Bernie is a tough casting director. He’s so tough, he’ll pre-screen a Broadway veteran for a chorus track… by himself. You think Ivy Lynn’s ten year long resume is good enough to pass her straight to the creative team? Hell. No. Bernie don’t even trust Ivy with a musical director. Bernie don’t mess around. Bernie gives a shit.

My favorite part about Ivy’s pre-screen, is the complete absence of audition material. She collects roughly two pages from the accompanist. That’s it. THAT’S. IT. Excuse me?! This is a Telsey & Co audition. Trees must be slaughtered. Where are Ivy’s sides for “Woman #2”? Where are the sixteen different scenes to learn for a role she might have to cover? Where is that awkward moment when Ivy is told to prepare all the sides, but pick her favorite to read, only for Bernie to throw a curve-ball and make her read the one side she studied the least!? I mean, I have audition sides from Telsey for a swing track that easily flattened a square mile of land in the Yucatán.

Ivy asks Bernie if she can audition for the role of Cecile (immortalized on screen by Selma Blair). Madeline Kahn won the Tony Award in the original production. (FACT: This would be Ms. Kahn’s fifth Tony Award. Watch out Audra.) Bernie is hesitant to let Ivy read for Cecile because he is concerned that she is committed to Bombshell. Judging by the revolving door of ensemble members we’ve seen, I don’t think anyone is committed to Bombshell. That being said, I think it’s awesome that Bernie wasn’t concerned about Ivy’s commitment to Bombshell when he called her in for Soprano #6, but now he’s worried she may not want to break her non-existent contract understudying the girl who lost to Taylor Hicks, to audition for a Tony-worthy role. That’s what I call a SMASHtastic twist.

After preparing for about four minutes with an over-werked Tom, Ivy lands the role of Cecile. In one day. The girl who needed to be pre-screened for an ensemble track some how manages to book the coveted supporting role in a major Broadway revival in the same amount of time it took for “Team Bombshell” to pitch that JFK/Marilyn love scene to the producer of The Wiz. #Werk Ivy. I wish I were that fierce.

And while we’re on the subject of Bernie Telsey…


3.) Russell Crowe Jokes: This episode of SMASH gave us two back to back Russell Crowe jokes. One about Mr. Crowe being difficult to work with and the other referencing A Beautiful Mind. Come on, SMASH. Two Russell Crowe jokes? Talk about overkill…

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I mean, really…

4.) How SMASH Writes a Musical: According to SMASH, musicals take years to develop. There’s an extensive thought process involved. A solid structure to follow. At least general outline? Right? Maybe…? Here is what SMASH has taught me about writing a musical:



Hit List

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Apparently, writing a musical is like a game of 52 card pickup. Just write a bunch of songs that vaguely follow the theme of the story you want to tell. Then literally throw them on the wall and see what sticks. I wonder if this is how all musicals are written. I like to imagine the creative process for South Pacific went something like this:

Where do you think we should put You've Got to Be Carefully Taught?
Isn't it right after Cockeyed Optimist?
Yeah, but I think we had a better order the last time we jumbled up the songs and pasted dialogue around them.
What about later in the show... Like, maybe when there's more racial tension?
I dunno. Isn't that a bit, "on the nose?"
Dammit, Richard. I thought you had this all written down in a notebook?!
I did. But I lost it that night we got wasted at the Gillies Ball.

5.) That Awkward Moment When… :

    • Jimmy grew sideburns to steal back his notebook.
    • J Hud’s wig.
    • Tom had a serious amount of mint chocolate chip ice cream in that bowl.
    • Matt Bogart took a day out of his life to help rehearse a scene that Julian Ovenden would get credit for.
    • That entire JFK song.
    • Karen ran through Madison Square park with her $3,000 human hair lace front in hand (Karen don’t give a shit about wigs).
    • The “extras” in Times Square were actually just pedestrians watching the scene. Or waiting to tape a Harlem Shake video.
    • Eileen continued her slow transformation into Cleopatra
    • Everything else.

6.) Karen and Ivy Move the Line: SMASH once again reminded us why Karen has that special muse quality that Ivy doesn’t. It’s obvious. Just look at the way Derek chose to stage Ivy and Karen in the song “They Just Keep Moving the Line.” According to the workshop, Ivy was forced to carry the entire number by herself. Alone? No backup dancers? No flashy distractions? How is the audience supposed to connect to Marilyn and her words if she’s not navigating complex traffic patterns? This is kind of like when Rob Marshall put a bunch of male dancers around Renée Zellweger inRoxie” but made poor Catherine Zeta-Jones do her big number with only a chair. It makes sense that Karen’s staging for the song involves intricate choreography. It’s just better that way.

7.) I’d Like Some [veronica] Moore of That! : Jennifer Hudson plays Veronica Moore. I’d like to remind you that Jennifer Hudson has an Academy Award. In case you forgot, she actually reminds you about it near the end of this episode by coyly uttering the words, “one night only.” She also doesn’t give a shit. I love it. She’s like, “Oh, you want me to lip synch my own voice? Shoot. I got an award for this. Beyonce who?” Never mind that Ms. Hudson’s lip-synch of “Home” is Daytime Emmy worthy while Beyonce’s much criticized “Star Spangled Banner” lip-synch should be awarded the EGOT for mime. I don’t care. She’s Jennifer Freakin’ Hudson, and I’ve been a fan of hers since she lost to this guy:


I also enjoy Veronica’s fashion choices. She wore a really nice dress in this episode…

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And then she wore it again…

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Hey, Bloomingdales? You know that dress you sold me? I’d like some Moore of that!

In the end, Veronica dropped out of The Wiz to do a concert at Birdland. Or 54 Below? Maybe it was The Triad. I’ll get back to you on that.

8.) SMASH is So Meta It’s Blowing My Mind: SMASH has brought us many “scripted meets reality moments” in its short lifespan. But now it appears that the writers are just taking what is happening to SMASH at NBC and putting it on the show (i.e. Theresa Rebeck). Even the alleged plot of Hit List is sort of just season one Karen and season two Jimmy in a musical.

Then there’s the winks and nudges at the audience. IBDB? Bond 45? Joe Machota at CAA? Christ, Liza is about to make an appearance. With all the industry cameos and references, I’m actually expecting to end up on the season finale. Picture Kyle reading a tweet where @Actor_Friend equates Hit List to Glory Days. I’ll one up you by having my last issue of “SMASH Don’t Give a Shit” include a segment where I reference Kyle referencing @Actor_Friend referencing Hit List. And then it will ALL be tweeted by Andy Mientus with a #smashtag. Has your head exploded yet?

9.) I Don’t Give a S-Hit List: I’m still not entirely sure what Hit List is about, but at least I now know it doesn’t involve Columbine. It’s A Star is Born, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Gaga, JT LeRoy and also none of those things. While we’re at it, why not toss in The Notebook, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Monkees, Julie Taymor, two members from One Direction and John Stamos. Just for flavor.

Hit List also has a lot of characters. It’s current. And everybody dies! Just kidding, there’s only one death. One really good death. One is all you need. ONE. YOU HEAR THAT JULIAN FELLOWES???

Now…What we’re ignoring here is the real SMASH “hit list.” The one filled with names of Broadway actors that the gods of SMASH don’t want appearing on the show as anything other than themselves. This insures these actors can never land a contract role. So far, the confirmed SMASH Season 2 Hit List includes:

  1. Cheyenne Jackson
  2. Jackie Hoffman
  3. Mary Testa
  4. Jessie Mueller
  5. Jennifer Damiano

I’d like to think Lea Michele is on that list, which is a shame because everyone I know really likes her.

10.) Ana Don’t Give a Shit: Judging by what we’ve learned about Ana, I think it’s obvious why she called out of the last episode…

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