THE "SMASH" REPORT: Episode 12, Or, That Screwy Ballyhooey Bollywood

By Kenneth Jones
25 Apr 2012

Some highlights of (and comments about) Episode 12:

 

Katharine McPhee goes Bollywood.
Photo by Will Hart/NBC

SAY IT WITH MUSIC: The other original Shaiman-Wittman song of Episode 12 is "A Thousand and One Nights" — the writers' first number outside the context of the show-within-a-show, Bombshell. During a tension-filled Indian-restaurant dinner with Rebecca and boyfriend Dev, Karen is mesmerized by a Bollywood musical film being shown on television inside the eatery. She imagines participating in an elaborate Bollywood-style number led by Dev (remember, Jaffrey was the star of the London stage musical Bombay Dreams) and featuring the entire principal cast of "Smash" (!) in wordless vignettes. If it is dazzlingly shot, conceived and realized, it's also kind of baffling and seriously lacking in point of view. Those vignettes within the number illustrate character dynamics and plot points that Karen could not possibly know. For example, Tom is rubbing a magic lamp, making a wish as his two potential love interests (Leslie Odom, Jr. as chorus dancer Sam and what looks like Neal Bledsoe as lawyer John) look on, while Karen and dancing Persian/Indian girls sing, "The man who never chooses finds himself without a choice…" (Cast member Ann Harada, who plays stage manager Linda, informed us shortly after this report went live that the man on the left is actually chorus dancer Phillip Spaeth as Dennis; remember how he expressed his interest in Tom early in the season?)



Listen, if you love random, whimsical "Glee"-style musical larks, Shaiman and Wittman's "A Thousand and One Nights" — the lyrics of which are not easy to discern (wouldn't subtitles have been a hoot?) — is your Nirvana. This number is either an experimental aberration or the shape of things to come, depending on the taste of the new showrunner of "Smash," Josh Safran, whose hiring was reported on April 25. Shaiman and Wittman's gifts are not in question — the series creators' ability to edit may be.

 

Thorsten Kaye and Anjelica Huston
photo by Will Hart/NBC

And, by the way, the only person with intimate knowledge of everyone's secrets is production spy Ellis. Shouldn't this number belong to him? Shouldn't he have surreptitiously followed Karen, Dev and Rebecca to the restaurant, hidden behind an arras, ordered chicken tikka masala, gotten an allergic reaction to cumin and had this psychotic musical break in which he questions the status of these showfolk? 

The episode is directed by consulting producer Michael Mayer, who helps conceive the series' numbers, and choreographed by the tireless Joshua Bergasse. Like Mayer's potent Broadway musicals Spring Awakening and American Idiot, "A Thousand and One Nights" is certainly, visually, unforgettable.

HOMEFRONT: The storyline focusing on trouble at home for librettist-lyricist Julia has been knocked by critics, but it's almost a relief this week compared to the assault of a Bollywood pastiche. At least we are back to people and story. Julia's teen son, Leo (Emory Cohen), has run away for two days, bringing Julia and her estranged husband, Frank (Brian d'Arcy James) back together. By episode's end, they appear to be reunited, despite the fact that Julia's affair with an actor was an earthquake in their lives. That philandering actor, Michael Swift, who had the role of Joe DiMaggio in Bombshell, has been replaced, we surmise. At the top of this episode, an actor named Ted is singing a snippet of DiMaggio's big breakup number from Bombshell. That actor playing Ted? He's the talented Broadway song and dance man Tony Yazbeck, currently starring as Billy Flynn in Chicago. He's also a veteran of White Christmas, two Broadway productions of Gypsy (1989 and 2008), the recent Broadway revival of A Chorus Line and the Encores! concert revival of On the Town (which also starred Christian Borle). Learn more about Yazbeck in the Playbill Vault.

TEARS FALL: Eileen (Anjelica Huston), who is never afraid to cry, wipes away tears while listening to the "Baby Grand" number. Borle continues to play Tom as a sensitive soul who is often on the verge of tears. When he learns that Leo is safe, he relievedly and tearfully falls into the arms of Sam. As you read this, Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays Sam, is busy opening in the new Broadway musical Leap of Faith, in which he plays a seminarian who questions the flim-flammery of a con-man preacher. It's hard to be both sincere and electric, but the sensational Odom is just that in the new show, and proves that he's a triple threat — dancer, actor and singer. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon, which grows extraordinary talent, he does his alma mater proud. Read his bio in the Leap of Faith Playbill. Someone needs to write a Broadway show for him. But isn't that true of most of the cast members of "Smash"?

(Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter @PlaybillKenneth.)

Check out the earlier "Smash" Report recap of Episode 11.

View Playbill Video's earlier visit with cast and creatives of "Smash."