Smash Fact or Fiction Episide 10 (Understudy)

Happy Wednesday and welcome to the tenth episode of SMASH Fact or Fiction?  Welcome to all you new readers, please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.  Thanks to New York Magazine for naming this blog as “highbrow” and “brilliant” in their approval matrix last week. I’m thrilled to achieve such a high honor with my pooping rhino video link still intact.

Let’s get back to America’s favorite TV trivia game show. If you’ve missed the previous posts, check out Why Smash Matters and our first nine game shows, for the pilot episode  episode two episode three episode four, episode five, episode six, episode seven, episode eight  and episode nine.  If you are new to My Own Space the blog, my name is Sharon and I’ve been in pretty many Broadway shows.  I am also friends with Theresa Rebeck, the creator, writer, and all around guru of the show–so I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact,  a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary.  Right?  Right.  Good.  Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______.  We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world.  Based on the success of A Chorus Line  and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway.  Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog.  Right?  Right.  If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place and should maybe try this instead.

Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number two and is probably a Cuban cigar.

Here we go.  Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”.  You play along.  Get your buzzers ready.

1)  There were many famous people on the show tonight.  Fact or fiction?


Bonus Round!

I will name the person and you match the part they played on SMASH and who they are in real life.  Ready?

1)  Harrison Chad 

2)  Manny Azenberg

3)  Terrence Mann

4)  Robyn Goodman

A)  I played the role of the an investor and I was playing myself.  I am best known as the producer of Avenue Q, In the Heights, American Idiot, West Side Story, Bengal Tiger of the Robin Williams was in this play Zoo, and many others.  My spouse is a famous set designer.

B)  I played a role in the musical Julia and Tom attended to celebrate their “anniversary”.  I am a famous side kick, I am wildly popular in the preschool set…..I am the voice of the animated monkey “Boots” in Dora the Explorer.  I was also in Les Miserables. 

C)  I played the role of an investor and I was playing myself.  I have produced a bazillion plays and musicals on Broadway, but I might be best known for producing Neil Simon’s work.  I am getting a lifetime achievement Tony award this year.

D)  I played the role of the really rich guy who plays the guitar and sets fire to producer contracts.  Among my extensive credits are these well known roles: I was the original Javert in Les Miserables, the original Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and the original RumTumTugger in Cats.

Correct answers are:

1) B

2) C

3) D

4) A

2)  If you find a rich eccentric guy who can bank roll your whole musical, it is common place to set fire to a producer’s contract in a public place.  Fact or fiction.

It would be very fun to say fact, but of course this is fiction.  The real truth is that the building of a high profile and high cost musical means keeping all your money people happy, even if you don’t need them at that moment.  There is always a good chance that you will need them in the future if a producer drops out (look at the ill fated Funny Girl for an example, or Spiderman’s ballooning costs last year as an example).  Motto of the day?  Never piss anyone off if you might need their money later.  But hey–how much fun do you think Terrence Mann had playing the guy who told the producers–who were playing themselves (and get “good sportsmanship” awards)  to suck it?  Probably a lot.

3)  Using Ivy as an example, it is possible to get “black balled” for bad behavior.  Fact or fiction?

Disagree with me, but I am going to call this fiction, and clearly Ivy isn’t even really going to be black balled, or this would be her last episode on SMASH.  Right?  Right.  Okay, I am going to cover a lot of bad behavior territory here, that will also include sexual harassment (which comes up in this episode for a minute and my guess is we haven’t heard the last of it).  This could be a controversial answer, everybody buckle in.  In my opinion it is very difficult to get “black balled” from the theater world.  Unlike a lot of the corporate world, a lot of bad behavior is tolerated, laughed off, ignored and (sometimes) rewarded.  I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard that ends with someone in the corporate world saying, “If you did that in my office, you’d be fired on the spot.”  Sometimes you can be fired from a show (as Ivy was), but it doesn’t mean you won’t ever get hired again–even in a small and gossipy community like the theater.  Here’s an example.  There was an actor who was discovered to be stealing from fellow cast mates.  This person was not fired, but was sent to rehab, and then went on to another Broadway show where he/she was then arrested for the crimes at the previous theater. Was this person fired from the second show (the one where he/she was arrested)?  No.  This person had a job up until the show closed.  Will this person be allowed to work in another show?  Yup.  Will this person’s cast mates lock up their belongings?  I hope so.  No, what I really hope is that the rehab went well.  But you get my point.  Name a corporation that would allow that.  Here’s another one.  There was a guy who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a minor in his dressing room.  Trial, fines, the whole thing.  Not long after, he was back in a show with minors.  Look, maybe he really is fine.  But the point is, would Ivy get black balled for what she did?  Nope.

4) Some investors are only investing in the star and not the show.  Fact or fiction?

Fact, 100%.  Do you think Death of a Salesman would be on Broadway right now without Philip Seymour Hoffman?  Or Evita without Ricky Martin?  Or would How to Succeed have opened without the huge draw of Daniel Radcliffe (even that Jonas brother can’t get those grosses up to the wizard level).  No way.  Do producers want to meet the stars and make sure they are serious about doing it?  Absolutely.

5)  Composing teams really celebrate their anniversaryFact or fiction?

I have no idea.  This was a question that was asked and I don’t know the answer.  Please write in if you know!

6)  It is normal to have a sort of reading, sort of workshop hybrid to hear the script read with new cast members.  Fact or fiction?

I will give this a “fact” if this were clearly a “reading”, but it’s not it’s a hybrid.  maybe we will understand more of what is going on next week.

7)  The composer can and will stand in at a rehearsal for a missing actor.  Fact or fiction?

Only if it’s Christian Borle, a musical theater star in real life and we are 10 episodes in and we haven’t seen him strut his stuff yet. (He’s been in Spamalot, Legally Blonde and currently, Peter and the Starcatcher.)

This concludes our fact or fiction for this week.  I have insider information that next week’s episode will be chock full of theater facts for our gameshow.  Tune in then!

(To read the next post in the SMASH series, go here.)

( To read my new series “Let Me Tell You What I Liked About….” go here   This week we talk about Evita.)




About Sharon Wheatley

I'm a mother, an actress and a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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19 Responses to Smash Fact or Fiction Episide 10 (Understudy)

  1. mark says:

    I love Cuban cigars, but don’t think I’m gonna ace the final.

  2. Amanda says:

    I started reading your Face or Fiction because of the NY MAG approval matrix (I subscribe to that magazine). Congratulations on being discovered :-D

  3. Barry says:

    Harrison Chad was in Caroline, or Change.

  4. Ken says:

    *CHOCK full, not "chalk full."

  5. Kitt Sister says:

    I know my brother has rituals with his writing partner….they went to College together, so their history goes wayyyyy back

  6. Andee says:

    Sharon Wheatley, I'm going to start by saying I own your book, and I very much enjoyed it! BUT I'm going to have to disagree with you about the bad behavior comment, but WITH the caveat that it really very much depends on the situation. One of the situations you bring up where the actor was NOT blackballed was a rather unique scenario where a lot of people believed charges were brought at all because of publicity. A lot of issues are in play when you're talking about "blackballing" an actor. But let's not also forget that same actor was just very publicly replaced in a high profile project not too long ago because of bad press associated with that incident. And I actually heard a story today about an understudy on tour in a high profile show who talked a great deal in a disparaging manner about a few other people, and news of her shooting her mouth off travelled to LONDON- and the performer in question now can't get a callback for anything. Personally I think Ivy's situation wouldn't get her blackballed because of her long history of GOOD behavior and great work ethic (everyone can make a mistake ONCE), but she'd be FAR more likely to be blackballed if she trash-talked: The producers, the writers, the director, etc.

    • sswheatley says:

      That's all fair–I never mind being disagreed with! As you know, it's the conversation that I enjoy.

  7. toscaskiss32 says:

    I remember that whole sexual activity with a minor case ("but she looked at least eighteen, your honor!"), and surrounding brouhaha. I agree that theater people can be very forgiving, especially of someone who really delivers the goods onstage (like that guy's beautiful baritone). Ivy is someone who can certainly deliver the goods, and she'll clearly be back onstage one way or another soon.

    The thing about Ivy and her two crappy performances: We're supposed to believe her character to be a seasoned, professional theater performer, but also one whose heart and soul are committed to her work in theater. I contend that, even aside from the obvious responsibility she had, to do her part in making those performances the best they could be, a responsibility to every audience member, not to mention to her colleagues–even aside all that, Ivy (as we're supposed to believe her to be) wouldn't dream of doing a performance in that eye-rolling, disgusted-to-be-here fashion that was shown. That kind of stuff wouldn't be forgiven for very long (but someone performing that way wouldn't appear to want to be working onstage, which is why I found it to be bad writing).

    The second, more obviously outrageous performance (where she was stoned) seemed unrealistic in how Norbert Leo Butz's character reacted to her, by getting angry and swearing at her onstage, in full view and hearing of the audience. Much more effective and believable would have been him trying to deal with the situation by making it funny, getting her offstage while improvising something to at least try to find humor for the audience in dealing with that obviously unplanned situation. Things like that annoy me about SMASH, where the reality of what theater people would do would be so much more interesting than what those characters do, why not be a little more true to life? I'm happy for them to take liberties in the interest of fun television drama/comedy, but when a more authentic choice would also be more interesting, why not go that way?

    • TMR says:

      I noticed that too! (About Norbert Leo Butz yelling at her onstage). Wasn't he miked? Wouldn't the whole audience have heard him? (which is way more unprofessional than anything Ivy was doing IMO!)

    • Jenny says:

      wouldn't dream of … eye-rolling … You'd be surprised. :-)

  8. toscaskiss32 says:

    Oh–and whether or not it's realistic, I really liked the storyline about how Julia and Tom celebrate their partnership anniversary. That, and having Christian Borle finally get a musical number were two instances where stretching the truth a bit was worth it for the sake of good entertainment.

  9. Doug says:

    I was amused that before Christian Borle performed in a musical number as Daryl Zanuck, an assistant ran up to the choreographer and explained to him, "We put the guys in towels so it will look more like they're in a steam bath." Then the male dancers, wearing towels over their clothes, proceeded to bump and grind and open and close the towels, implying that in the show they would be giving various peeks at their anatomy. The moment Christian Borle entered, the dancers ripped off their towels, and whirled them over their heads, implying that they were greeting Mr. Zanuck in the nude. What amused me was that the choreographer hadn't choreographed this – he was just there to hear the song – and the assistant had explained, as mentioned above, that they had put the men in towels to imply a steam bath. But then the dancers performed the number completely choreographed (without the choreographer's participation) with the towels as a vital part of the dance. And the choreographer didn't seem to mind in the least that someone else had choreographed the fairly elaborate number in his place. Somehow, this rang a false note with me.

    Speaking of the choreographer, in an earlier episode, he remarked bitterly that he had spent three years preparing the choreography for Eileen Rand's aborted production of MY FAIR LADY. Three years? Did anyone else realize that MY FAIR LADY probably has less choreography than most musicals. What number could he possibly have been working on for three years?

    Also, a tiny goof in Episode 10 – at one point we are shown HEAVEN ON EARTH playing at the Shubert. Then, a few minutes later, Ivy is standing down the street from it, and the Shubert billboard clearly reads MEMPHIS.

    • toscaskiss32 says:

      Yeah, that whole towels/choreography thing amused me too. Hadn't thought of the potentially nude aspect, but just that, if the choreographer wasn't involved with all that towel play choreography, who choreographed it, and wouldn't Derek have anything to say about it? That's all another example of where they could have easily made it more realistic (have the remark about the added towels made to someone else, possibly even BY Derek, since he has to be the one who choreographed it, or at least was aware of an assistant doing so, though that's awfully elaborate for an asst. to do, no?).

      Thanks for the MFL point, which I'd missed. I think you're right that three years is ridiculously long to have worked on that. BUT, I've got to say that, done right (by my lights), MFL should have quite a lot of choreography, on top of not exactly dance scenes that can be kind of choreographed. You've got choreographed dancing (to various degrees) in: "Wouldn't It Be Luverly"; "With a Little Bit of Luck"; "The Rain In Spain"; "I Could Have Danced All Night"; "Ascot Gavotte"; "The Embassy Waltz" opening the ball scene (neither of which should be jettisoned on any account, despite the apparent popularity of doing so–if you can't afford to include the waltz and the ball, DO ANOTHER SHOW!); "Show Me" (minimal, but somewhat choreographed, at least in some productions); and last but certainly not least, "Get Me To The Church On Time" (BIG dance number). So, quite a bit of dancing and choreography (again, I'm speaking in terms of a PROPER production, the only kind worth putting on), but, as you say, not three years worth of work, unless you REALLY space those work sessions out unrealistically.

      Thanks also for catching that Shubert Theater goof. (I have the feeling that, of the two, I'd rather see HEAVEN ON EARTH than MEMPHIS.)

  10. Rachel says:

    I have to say, that I love living in oblivion while watching the show, then coming here to get a dose of reality from Sharon and the commenters. I find the show very entertaining, I would go nuts if I knew all the ins and outs of how it really works. Same reason I am thankful I'm not a chef and can enjoy restaurants without nitpicking everything on the plate like my husband.

    Glad to see a return of the Blogisodes. That is what originally brought me here, need to go catch up now.

  11. Deb says:

    Love your blog

  12. toscaskiss32 says:

    Also, still wondering where is MARILYN's (or BOMBSHELL's) Music Director? Come on!

  13. Meg says:

    My experiences are in DC theatre, not NYC/Broadway, but I have seen blacklisting/blackballing. (Mainly for big, criminal, egregious problems, though. Not one performance.)

    I have to add that I LOVE this series of fact-or-fiction. It makes me happy.

  14. Jenny says:

    I don't know about the black balling. It's not really allowed to happen – but I wouldn't say it doesn't. If there are two people equally capable for the job, you don't think people check around about their work ethic? They do. And if you think people don't have Do Not Call lists? Think again. But I don't think Ivy would have fallen into that category.

Comments are closed.