Sunday, April 14, 2013

Vulture's Recaps are the Main Reason I Still Hate-Watch Smash

Okay, so I will be the first one to admit NBC's "Smash"musical-theatre themed drama is highly flawed and tonally inconsistent.  But as someone for whom showtunes provided the soundtrack to my elementary and adolescent years, it's fun to have a chance to nerd out once a week when I see the likes of Bernadette Peters on network TV (or rather, my computer screen.  Hulu, baby!).  I totally fell to pieces when I watched this mother-daughter ballad last week:

But the main pleasure of "Smash" has been the insider baseball-ness of the whole operation, from last year's behind-the-scenes drama involving showrunner Theresa Rebeck to the irony of Megan Hilty's character on TV being constantly passed over for the part of Marilyn in favor of an "American Idol" star while actual Broadway producers cast her in the revival of Monroe's iconic role in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

And no entertainment source has been quite as complicit in my slipping into the vortex of theatre geekdom than New York Magazine's Vulture blog, where Rachel Shukert has elevated the tv recap to a work of frenzied, surrealist art.  Observe below:

And the reason I am even mentioning this at all is in order to interrogate a metaphysical problem that has been building and building for me and which I can no longer ignore: On the showTake Me Out exists. Take Me Out starred Daniel Sunjata, except in the world of SmashDaniel Sunjata is a dramaturg named Peter Gilman. Patti is Patti and Liza is Liza, but Bernadette Peters is Leigh Conroy. So in the world of Smash, is there no Bernadette Peters? Is there some sort of caste system of who gets to play themselves, and who has to play an unrelated character? Is Bernadette upset that she doesn’t get to be Bernadette? And as we’re told that “Leigh Conroy” played Reno Sweeney in a major Broadway revival of Anything Goesdoes that mean Patti LuPone played the Witch in the simultaneous original production of Into the WoodsIs Patti LuPone Bernadette Peters, and is “Leigh Conroy” Patti LuPone? Is the entire planet Earth a microscopic amoeba living in Anjelica Huston’s fingernail? Is the difference between a cow and a bean 
truly that a bean can begin an adventure?

This particular tangent stokes my inner Broadway fan girl on a number of levels.  Not only do I have vividly awkward memories of seeing the full-frontal shower scenes of Broadway's Take Me Out while sitting next to my father, I also delight in the imagined (though wouldn't we all like to imagine it was real?) rivalry over Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone scheming to steal each other's parts ever since LuPone and Arthur Laurents decided to bring a new Gypsy to Broadway only five years after Peters dark, Sam Mendes-helmed revival.  (Incidentally, I saw both versions and am totally team Bernadette, obviously.  I also think that drama would be so much more entertaining than "Smash.")

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