Bernadette Peters. One of the biggest names in Broadway, she now adds the role of Leigh Conroy, mother to Megan Hilty's Ivy Lynn, to her considerable resume. Thanks to her many acclaimed performances in such shows as Into the Woods, Song and Dance, Sunday in the Park with George, Annie Get Your Gun, and, most recently, Follies, it is certainly not a stretch for her to be playing a respected, Tony-winning actress. And thanks to her starring role in the 2003 revival of Gypsy, neither is it new for her to be playing the mother of a star (though Mama Rose was an overbearing stage mom and Leigh Conroy, we find, is worried what show business is doing to her daughter). Her inspired performance of "Everything's Coming Up Roses" was a testament to her enduring talent.
Peters' appearance was a real treat, but die-hard Broadway fans have had the pleasure of catching other notable faces throughout the series. For example, some might recognize stage manager Linda as Ann Harada, who originated the role of Christmas Eve in the long-running, Tony-winning musical Avenue Q (other credits include Les Miserables and Seussical). Sassy ensemble member Bobby is none other than Wesley Taylor, who originated the roles of Franz in Rock of Ages and Lucas Beineke in The Addams Family. Other Marilyn ensemble members include Savannah Wise (Ragtime) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (Leap of Faith). And in the most recent episode, Brad Oscar (The Producers) had a cameo as the building manager. As a Broadway fan of a Broadway-centered TV series, I give Smash kudos for being authentic and actually casting some stage actors.
In other news, the drama heats up as several formerly happy couples have major problems. Tom is distancing himself from the caring and supportive John; Michael's persistence eventually becomes too much for Julia, so she decides to do away with him for the sake of her family; and Ivy blows up at Derek in rehearsal as (possibly drug-motivated) payback for his constant derision. Ivy is clearly under enormous pressure, which isn't helped by news of Karen's promising contact with a music producer. Meanwhile, Eileen embraces a lower-class lifestyle lubricated with $7 martinis and finds herself intrigued by the humble and ruggedly handsome bartender Nick. And Ellis continues his revolting spying and power-playing with Eileen. He is really working himself up to be quite the villain. Derek is no match for that snake.
After the workshop, the creative team finds that while it went pretty well, potential investors did find some problems. And rumors swirl that at least one of them sees Marilyn as a vehicle for one of his own stars (yet another stressor for poor Ivy). But Julia seems to be back on track after a writing slump, and Eileen seems to be using a newfound confidence to take real control of the show. It looks like it just might come together, but the stakes are high and the odds are still against the fledgling musical. Stay tuned. ;-)