We have to admit to a little bit of surprise at the way episode 2 of “Smash” ended on Monday (Feb. 13). Which isn’t to say the outcome of “The Callback” was disappointing — not hardly. But given the way the show has been sold, we would’ve bet differently.
Given how much Katharine McPhee was front and center in the marketing of the show, we kind of assumed that when it came down to it, Karen would end up with the part of Marilyn Monroe, not Ivy (who, it must be said, is pretty fantastic in her own right). But that’s not what happened — and in the long run, that will probably be better for the show.
For starters, it opens up some storytelling avenues about Karen having to pay dues to get where she wants to be, as well as a potential rivalry with Ivy. And also? Having the veteran win the lead role just feels a lot more realistic than the newcomer getting it.*
(*We thought quite a bit about “Glee,” and specifically Rachel Berry, while watching this episode. If “Smash” exists in the universe of “Glee,” we’d sit Rachel down and make her watch this episode over and over. Stardom on the stage rarely happens overnight, and the sooner Rachel is disabused of the idea that it does, the better off she’ll be in the long run.)
“Smash” creator Theresa Rebeck says she’d be happy if people were surprised by the outcome of Monday’s show, because “surprise is something we’re striving for.” More than that, though, she says the decision to have Ivy win the role offers up “a more authentic version” of what a Broadway rookie might go through.
“When we got to this moment, we were very seriously talking about,” Rebeck told Zap2it when we spoke to her in January. “It wasn’t something we did easily, just the way it’s not something they do easily. I finally asked the question of everybody, What would you do, really, in this situation? And everybody was like, Well, [Karen] is pretty green. She’s fabulous, but she’s pretty green — you’d put her in the chorus. I was like, of course that’s what you’d do.”
Having Karen in the ensemble will also let the show introduce some new characters, Rebeck says.
“Another thing we’ve been striving for is a sense of the upstairs-downstairs, the different classes and communities that are in this world,” she says. “You meet a whole different group of people, which are the chorus kids, who are delightful and interesting and more downtown. … It’s been really fun to work through.
“And you know,” Rebeck adds, “it’s never over till it’s over. And even then.”
What did you think of episode 2 of “Smash”? Were you surprised at the outcome? Happy? Bummed?