Courtney K on SMASH and rooting for the “wrong” Marilyn

I don’t like to write critical pieces about shows.

You can stop laughing now. I DON’T! I feel bad when I think about how hard that person may have worked or how long it took them to get to where they are and how it’s not necessarily their fault…and then there’s SMASH.

There’s nothing precisely wrong with this show. The elements are there; fantastic veteran talents, a glimpse into the realm of Broadway, talented bendy males and females prancing about, an incredible singer….and there there’s the other one.

SMASH has been taunting me since I first was able to view the screener earlier in the fall. I was elated to see Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing and oddly, Jack Davenport (Well Hello there Norrington!!) cast as the producer, half of a musical creative team, and a director, respectively. And the concept? From the dirt to The Tonys, how a musical is created. UM…SOLD! I’m a Musical Geek, a Recovering Broadway Baby, and a peek into the making of an actual Broadway musical, are you freakin’ kidding me?? What could possibly be wrong with it!

The ingénue. WAIT, not the blonde, the other one. Let me explain.

Since SMASH is about the Broadway community, we are starting with The Book and writing process and the audition process. In order to speed things along; the focus is on two actresses, Megan Hilty (the blonde established Broadway performer IN REAL LIFE TOO) and Katharine McPhee (the brunette). All the posters, promotional material, commercials, etc have all been showcasing McPhee. Here’s where I become potentially unpopular.

I don’t like Katharine McPhee. There. It’s out. I just don’t! I think she’s a perfectly pretty girl with a good voice but I just don’t want to watch her. I didn’t like her on American Idol. I don’t like her now. I’m not a “hater” and I’m not going to bash her. I just don’t like her. If you like her, you are entitled to. I just don’t.

The one I like, or rather so heavily admire it’s almost embarrassing, is Megan Hilty. BOY OH BOY is she amazing! The looks, the voice, the acting, the dancing!

Seriously! She’s been hugely successful in Broadway (she was Glinda!) and has had many roles scattered here and there on television. This chick’s resume is sickening. I mean it, look at her IMDB, it’s ridiculous, she’s only 30! I find myself having to edit my own gushing admiration!

Back to the show. So we have two actresses, Karen Cartwright (McPhee) and Ivy Lynn (Hilty) vying for the same coveted role of Marilyn Monroe in a brand new musical. While Cartwright is the n00b with a “light” resume (read: she hasn’t worked much) who I think the audience is supposed to root for. She smartly turns down the advances of the smarmy director who was literally sitting on a couch while trying to get her to “show me what you’ve got”. I mean, wow. Subtle symbolism it was not. I get it. She’s the struggling and starving artist. I think the audience is supposed to care more about her because she is so filled with naivety and hope.

Her opposite, Ivy Lynn is the perpetual chorus girl with a talent much bigger than the sum of her *ahem* previous parts and I’m sorry, but SHE is the one I cannot help but cheer for. Her character’s the one who’s worked in the background, being underappreciated but never giving up. She’s friends with the other half of the writing team behind the fictional musical because she works so much! That sort of networking and building of a career is the most realistic to me. What sucks is; they have her sleep with the smarmy director. Le sigh. While it wasn’t an outright seduction and it doesn’t appear that it affected the outcome of who got the Lead in the show, it still feels icky and I wish they hadn’t had her character do that. I feel like it’s going to come back and besmirch the whole process.

The way the songs are introduced in SMASH feels very organic. There are musical “in my head” moments scattered in with purposeful production numbers that go from rehearsal in sweats to full-blown performance complete with sequins with a swirl of the camera lens. While I and all of my Theater Dork friends know, that’s really not how it works, there’s a lot more to it than that; it’s a good interpretation for those outside the theee-at-TAH who wouldn’t have the patience to watch the endless hours and weeks of practice it takes to put on one single production number. There have been original songs and revamped pop hits, nothing too obscure peppered in the hour long drama-edy. It’s not solely about the musical, it’s about family and relationships too. There are funny and heartwarming parts, and depressing parts. It’s fairly even on the emotional scale.

Do I recommend SMASH? Yes. I suppose I do. I want it to succeed. (We’re only what, 3 episodes in?) Do I think it will have 6 seasons and a movie? Doubtful. I don’t know if the audience has already or will jump on board, but there’s a good (for the most part) cast and the writing feels natural as if someone from the Broadway industry is at the helm. I think it’s worth a watch, even if you don’t sing along.


  • Janine

    Well I’m so glad to read this. Thought I was the only one rooting for Ivy. I don’t know what it is I can’t stand KP. Seeing the promos I haven’t even watched smash until tonight ( nothing else on). I think KP is pretty but seems egotistical or something. I just do not like her I think Ivy is fantastic also.

  • I know EXACTLY what you mean! There’s just something I do not like about KMP! Thankfully it seems like the showrunners are giving Ivy a better storyline now. I was getting sick to my stomach thinking that maybe KMP would be the whole show. Thanks for reading! 🙂