Bombshell “On Broadway”: Smash Season Two Premiere Review
Fans of Smash will notice quite a few changes when the second season of NBC’s musical drama debuts on February 5 with the two-hour premiere episode “On Broadway/The Fallout,” but have no fear … the show still sparkles with wonderful choreography, infinitely hummable show tunes, and plenty of intrigue and plot twists involving characters both old and new.
The first season chronicled the development, casting, and first preview performances of Bombshell, an inspired but troubled stage musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. In Season Two, Anjelica Huston returns as producer Eileen Rand, who has the daunting task of getting the fledgling musical onto a Broadway stage. Huston’s portrayal of the strong and acerbic Eileen is just as enjoyable this season (and we’re all rooting for her to throw yet another drink into the face of her meddling ex-husband Jerry as he plots to undermine Bombshell’s success). Katharine McPhee is back as ingenue Karen Cartwright, who opens the episode with a completely new musical number, “Cut, Print, Moving On,” flaunting the talent that won her the role of Mariyln. Megan Hilty delivers another fine performance as Ivy Lynn, who was stunning as Marilyn until she lost the role to Karen. Ivy, who suffered an ugly and very public meltdown after Karen was chosen for the lead role, is now in danger of being fired from the show, and McPhee and Hilty do a fine job conveying the tension between these two brilliant stars.
Meanwhile, a sexual harassment scandal involving director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) threatens the reputation of the show, while writer/composers Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) and Julia Houston (Debra Messing) are also struggling with personal issues … Julia’s troubled marriage to her husband Frank appears to be over (as actor Brian d’Arcy James departs the show), and Tom’s boyfriend Sam (Leslie Odom, Jr.) has accepted a role in a touring company, leaving Tom alone and depressed … but also making room for Julia to move in with her sassy gay friend as she decides what to do about her broken marriage and the show’s bad reviews. (“It’ll be like old times … or a sitcom!” enthuses Tom.)
With so much going on and so many new faces in the cast (including Krysta Rodriguez as Karen’s new roommate, who unfortunately doesn’t get much to do in this premiere episode), we hardly notice the absence of some of last season’s less likeable characters, such as Karen’s annoying boyfriend Dev (Raza Jaffrey) and Eileen’s incredibly obnoxious assistant Ellis (Jaime Cepero). Their departures are easily explained by plot, as is Michael Swift’s (Will Chase), who pretty much had to go after his affair with Julia caused the destruction of her marriage as well as her near-breakdown.
Amid the enjoyable but somewhat soapy plotlines there is, of course, no shortage of wonderful musical numbers, including “Mama Makes Three,” a rousing song and dance number by guest star Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) as Broadway star Veronica Moore. Jack Davenport is hilarious as he depicts Derek’s descent into disgrace, which ends with his drunkenly hallucinating a chorus of aggressively sexy women belting the lively number “Would I Lie to You?” Another highlight is the solo piece “Broadway, Here I Come” performed by Jeremy Jordan (Newsies), who joins the show this season as disagreeable bartender Jimmy. Jimmy’s impressive vocal and piano piece turns out to be from the musical he’s secretly writing with his much friendlier partner Kyle (newcomer Andy Mientus), and Karen takes it upon herself to help promote the musical despite Jimmy’s grumpy objections.
But the troubles facing Bombshell continue to pile up. In addition to Jerry’s sabotage and Derek’s ruined reputation, there’s also an investigation into the possibly drug-related cash invested by Eileen’s boyfriend’s Nick. In one memorable scene, Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein (guest starring as himself) tells Tom, “Honey, if they said half the stuff about a show of mine as they’re saying about yours, I’d be on suicide watch.” As things become more desperate, Eileen risks hijacking an influential theatre awards gala with an impromptu performance from Bombshell, giving us one more chance to appreciate Megan Hilty’s lovely voice as she moves effortlessly from crooning to belting in another new Bombshell number, “They Just Keep Moving the Line.”
All in all, the two-hour premiere does an admirable job of introducing this season’s new characters and major plot points, while still providing plenty of dazzling musical and dance performances. The introduction of Jimmy’s musical is a clever new development, since it could give Smash another possible show-within-a-show to feature when Bombshell finally get its Broadway debut (and presumably runs out of new material). I’m looking forward to a completed Bombshell soundtrack CD when that day arrives … or even better, an actual staged performance of the whole show (a Broadway production, as long as we’re dreaming)!
Tune in for all the music and drama when Smash returns, Tuesday February 5 on NBC.