Now THIS is what I’m talking about! A tighter, much more focused episode that centers around the workshop, with the peripheral foolishness (Michael and Julia’s affair, Tom’s awkward boyfriend) more or less limited to how it affects the production and the people working on it. This is what I signed on for.
1. The workshop is upon us, but wait! The studio building’s boiler is on the fritz, causing a tropical heatwave in the building. With all of those rich, potential investors who don’t like to sweat coming to view the workshop, Eileen is all over the superintendent to get it fixed. He has put in the phone call, but the workers are unionized and will get to it when they get to it. Fortunately for Eileen, bartender Nick from her new favorite place, the Bushwhack, “knows a guy.” He’s unlicensed and an illegal alien, but he’ll do the job for payment under the table. Eileen accepts that offer, even breaking the padlock off of the boiler room door so he can work. Grateful for the connection, Eileen invites Nick to stay and watch the performance. I think there may have been a little flirtation there too, but I’m going to ignore that for now because…
Okay, look. I’m just gonna say it. Anjelica Huston? Is a fine, fine actress, but she is more than a little… unfortunate looking. Especially with that Cleopatra haircut that presents her face with all the subtlety of a well-honed battle-axe. I don’t want to see her getting all down and dirty with the downtown barkeep (or with anyone else at all, really), is what I’m sayin’. Still, I like the character of Eileen more than I ever thought I would, especially when CW comes tattling to her about Michael and Julia’s affair, and she shuts him down with a quickness: ”I won’t pretend that this isn’t useful information. But if you repeat this to anyone, I will see that you never work on this production, or any other, ever again.”
2. Julia and Michael are all flirty and hand-holdy in the privacy of the freaking sidewalk outside the studio. Good going, guys. Way to be fucking discreet. As has been the case lately, Julia is not getting things done on her end, namely the song lyrics and the “book,” distracted as she is by all of the extramarital sex she’s having. That giddiness comes to a screeching halt (cue scratched record sound effect) when Michael’s wife shows up at rehearsal with his son. Julia is so upset she’s “nauseous” and has to run off home to avoid the whole thing instead of putting on her big-girl panties and dealing with the situation like a mature, reasonable woman. Her unexpected return home leads her to catch Leo in the act of smoking weed. In his bedroom. In the house. I’m guessing Leo gets his sneaking-around skills from his mother.
Julia later tells Michael — for the ten thousandth time — that they need to end this affair. He’s still being a needy, creepy, stalkery jerk about the whole thing. Director D-bag has Julia read Marilyn’s dialogue to Michael’s DiMaggio dialogue, and the ensuing argument becomes the new dialogue that Director D-bag was looking for. Nice to know SOMETHING productive came out of it. And let me go on record right here as saying: If Julia turns up pregnant from this tryst with Michael after she and Frank have been trying to adopt a kid, we are DONE, Show. Do you hear me? DONE.
3. Ivy’s mother Leigh Conway, played by Bernadette Peters, has come to the city to see the workshop, against Ivy’s wishes and better judgment. And it’s easy to see why: apparently Leigh is a Broadway legend, has at least one Tony under her belt, and draws all attention to herself. Instead of sitting down and shutting the fuck up when she comes to rehearsal, she gladly performs “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” for the gang when they ask her to sing something. Other offenses during her visit include encouraging Ivy to take sleeping pills, even though she’s already taking prednisone; arriving at the workshop “fashionably late” and making a big production of herself in taking a seat; and complimenting everyone in the cast on the workshop with the conspicuous exception of Ivy. I think it’s abundantly clear where Ivy gets her self-esteem issues from.
Ivy at least calls her mother out on it, comparing Leigh to Marilyn’s mother, and pointing out how well that turned out. Leigh: ”She was a legend.” Ivy: ”She was an unhappy, drug-addicted disaster.” Before departing for whatever suburb she came in from, Leigh does tell Ivy that she never wanted this for her, because she knows how hard show business is, and she’s watched many people without Ivy’s talent pass her by, etc. She does love her, for what it’s worth, but jeebus. Can we get Ivy some therapy, already?
4. Karen begins the episode at a recording studio, where an initially bored, sleepy, and possibly hungover tech helps Karen record a demo for Bobby Raskin. Her rendition of “Better Than the Sun” has the tech seeing rainbows and unicorns with a quickness, and he apparently gets the demo to Raskin post-haste, because Karen gets a call at rehearsal that same day saying that they want her back at the studio. Karen’s fellow chorus members remind her that this is just a workshop, it’s a rehearsal, and as a chorus member she won’t be all that missed, so she goes back. The next day, Karen gets a message from Bobby Raskin himself that he wants her to go meet with him. However, the workshop is that day, and Karen won’t blow that off, so she misses the opportunity, despite the fact that Raskin won’t be back in town for at least another month.
5. The workshop: It looks like this is basically a stripped down version of what the show will be, with the production numbers performed and presumably some of the dialogue spoken, though what we see is mainly an amalgamation of the songs we’ve seen them do so far. The boiler doesn’t get fixed until half way through, unfortunately. There is more here to cause the investors discomfort, though: Ivy stumbles a couple of times, her voice is maybe not as good as we’ve heard it, and Karen crashes off of the bleachers and onto the drums heading into intermission. General consensus is that the whole thing is kind of a mess, and no one is jumping on that bandwagon. Eileen, Director D-bag, Tom and Julia reconnoiter afterward and read the online reviews (they have such things for workshops?) they’ve received. Eileen wants to consider recasting Marilyn, which Tom won’t hear of, pointing the finger at Michael and saying he’s the problem. Director D-bag thinks Tom is off his rocker, saying that Michael was the one stand-out. He is not, however, privy to the information about Julia and Michael’s fling like Eileen is, and Eileen agrees that maybe he should be fired. Has Broadway never heard of things like sexual harassment lawsuits?
6. Finally, I would like to talk for a second about Director D-bag. I’ve been hard on him (I did name him D-bag, after all), and he has in fact been a Class A Douchebag for much of this series so far. But remember how I said I thought there was a lot of potential with that character? I still think there is, and we saw a little bit of it last night. He saw how Leigh’s attention-whoring was affecting Ivy and made a point of propping her up. When he did criticize her during the workshop’s intermission, he made it clear he was speaking as the production’s director, and said that she needed to focus more, which was not an invalid criticism. He also got what was by far the best dialogue of the episode: DD: “The child thing never ceases to perplex me. Tom: ”Because you’re a reptile.” Julia: departs in haste. DD, genuinely perplexed: ”What, did I say something? That’s the least offensive thing I’ve said in days.”
It’s very clear to me that Derek cares about this production. He has a reputation to maintain, sure, but what I’m getting is that the reputation is earned because he gives 150% to whatever he’s working on. He’s a hardass, and he’s focused, and he’s not there to make friends or to hold hands; he’s there to make this show a kick-ass success. The fact that he can completely compartmentalize the show away from whatever he is doing with Ivy makes him really interesting to me. It makes him an ass for sleeping with the show’s lead, because for fuck’s sake, don’t shit where you have to eat, but he’s more layered than almost any other character on the show right now. And it doesn’t hurt one little bit that Jack Davenport is knocking this shit out of the fucking park.
So after this week, I am cautiously optimistic that this show can find it’s identity and focus itself a little better to position itself for the long haul. It’s what I wanted for it from the start. Did it make anyone else slightly lukewarm and just the littlest bit fuzzy?