With “Enter Joe DiMaggio” SMASH Ensemble Shines

With it’s third episode, “Enter Joe DiMaggio,” SMASH safely moves away from any comparisons to kids singing in high school; in fact, if this episode is any indication, the show it is more likely to be compared with is the popular Downtown Abbey.

SMASH here shows off the ability to accurately span the wide social, cultural, and financial spectrum that makes Broadway run, from the assistant having a beer on a rooftop, to the actress/waitress and actor/father having to decide whether they can afford their dream on $200 a week, to the chic restaurants that are the haunt of producers, even producers who have to sell their jewelry to keep the machine running.  This is a far cry from all those shows where we see people going about their lives with no idea how they pay their bills.

This episode weaves plots and subplots so effortlessly that it is hard to say which is which.  Julia (Debra Messing) listens to her writing partner Tom (Christian Borle) rant about the unprofessionalism of director Derek while knowing that she had an affair with the actor they are about to cast as Joe DiMaggio (Will Chase).

In each of the first three episodes, SMASH has flirted with melodrama and then steered deftly away just when you thought that was where it was headed, and neither the veering toward soap opera territory nor the last-minute avoidance of it seems an accident.

Karen (Katherine McFee)  has settled into her role as a member of the ensemble of Marilyn the Musical, and while her performance would stand out on many shows for her expressiveness and the way she does everything with a sparkle, it is the real ensemble of SMASH that shines so brightly that no one stands out from the rest.

Director Michael Mayer again keeps the pace smooth and crisp. and the attention to production value and detail is everywhere, from the set dressing of the karaoke party for Karen’s friend in Iowa to details of a casting session for Joe D to the staging of a number for an Off-Off Broadway show where we first see Michael, who will play Joe D, perform.

As usual, the original music written for the fictional musical is top-notch, and the integration of shots of a rehearsal and what the final product would look like on stage is clever and seamless.

Creator Teresa Rebeck’s  dialogue and ability to show instead of tell is what really sets SMASH apart.  Whether it be the foreshadowing of a potential problem with Michael, then the first scene between Michael and Julia where we realize there was something sexual between them though nothing is said, the subtle contrast of the attitudes of Karen’s friends back home from the people we see follow in New York, or the way Brits spar differently from Americans, Rebeck shows off a very keen ear for how different people speak and handle situations.  While that would seem the natural responsibility of the writer, in television, it is all too often that everyone we hear sounds like the writer, with only a few obvious and cliche characteristics thrown in to differentiate them.

It takes skill to have one character throw a drink in the same other characters face three times in the same episode and pull it off, but Rebeck gets away with it because these specific characters expect each other to be overly-dramatic and larger than life, and so they are.

The episode ends putting one question behind it; the casting of Joe and the duet between Joe and Marilyn, while leaving open endless possibilities for each of the sub-plots to take shape.

 

 

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JB Bruno

Website: http://inmyoblivion.blogspot.com
John J Bruno – Producer, Line Producer, Writer John J Bruno (JB) brings almost thirty years of working in the entertainment industry: in theater as a producer, director, designer and acting teacher; in independent films as producer, line producer, production manager, writer and assistant director. Among his featured credits as line producer is Man of the Century, featuring Frank Gorshin, Anne Jackson and Tony-winner Anthony Rapp. Produced on a modest budget, Man of the Century won the Audience Award at Slamdance, and was then released by Fine Line. He was more recently line producer on the Tamil-US production of Achamundu, Achamundu. Directed by Arun Vaidyanathan, Achamundu,Achamundu featuring Tamil film stars Prasanna, Sneha and Emmy Award-winning American film actor John Shea earned Best Feature Film Award at the Chennai International Film Festival and, here at home, won the Best Homegrown Feature Film Award at the Garden State Film Festival. In the summer of 2000, he ...Read Full
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