THE "SMASH" REPORT: Season Two, Episode 15 or Grin and Bare It

By Ben Rimalower
13 May 2013

Christian Borle and Debra Messing
Photo by Will Hart/NBC

Jimmy doesn't think replacing Ana is going to fix the show and is very disturbed to read that the fans online think the show was better downtown. Julia knows why they feel that way. She's been thinking about it and the difference is context. Off-Broadway, the audience was so close to the action onstage. Now, on Broadway, the stage is elevated and everything happens so far away from where the people are sitting. How to draw them in? Make them feel connected? Um, they have 10 hours. Derek, always a wise director despite everything else, instructs them to find one idea that feels organic and go with that. That's the kind of thing Kyle was good at! Julia thinks there might be something in Kyle's notes to solve this problem. After some hunting (and an emotional trip to the Greenpoint loft they shared), Julia and Jimmy find Kyle's "newsreel" idea, to incorporate real-time social media updates, both onstage and on the mobile devices of the audience, into the show as interstitial material, commenting on the nature of fame in society.

The idea goes into the show that night (seemingly without any help from Derek… really? The director is out of the room while the songwriter and dramaturg tech new material?) and the idea works like gangbusters, earning a spontaneous burst of rapturous applause. Karen tells Jimmy that Kyle would be proud of him, and that so is she. I don't know. He may be sober and talented, but Jimmy's still an entitled prick. He flips out at Julia when she won't agree to come back the next day to work more of the social media updates into Hit List. She assures him he can do it himself and he responds to her encouragement with bile. This, after she spent all day working with him and almost completely missed Houston & Levitt Night!

Speaking of which, with Julia agreed (at least in theory) to a duet, a Houston-Levitt Best Score nomination looks likely, but Tom still has his own (apparently limited) chances for a potential Best Director nomination to worry about. In an effort to boost his stature as a director in town, he reconceptualizes Houston & Levitt Night as a sexy revue, transforming the Oak Room (at the Plaza?) into a house of burlesque. (Says, the stage manager, "Pimps, raise your hands." Did Mel Brooks write this scene?) Forget that Bombshell number, Ivy, you're singing this song about a stripper!

Not so fast. Agnes has also warned Ivy about some bad personal press of her own, including a Musto blind item citing her forays with pill-popping and promiscuity. Agnes tells Ivy she needs image rehab, that her Tony for playing Marilyn rests on her ability to be Norma Jean offstage. Ivy worries about this stripper number, until Eileen assures her she's a star just the way she is. Eileen also got her a national commercial for Ford Icon ("I play one at night, but by day, I drive a…"), so Ivy heeds her advice and absolutely kills with "Grin and Bare It."

So, in a nutshell, the stakes are high, a fact not forgotten when Ivy and Karen agree, no matter what happens in awards season, to be adults. At the Oak Room for Houston & Levitt Night, that same Tonys tension is handled with far less bonhomie in a comical and catty (although not comically catty!) exchange between Tom and Broadway scribe Lin-Manuel Miranda.