As the old superstition goes, a bad dress rehearsal all but guarantees a great opening night. And if the opposite also happens to be true, I would keep expectations low for next week's Smash -- because tonight's episode, "The Dress Rehearsal," was season 2's best by far. The main reason: For the most part, its plot focused on backstage intrigue rather than dull relationship drama -- and when the latter did intrude upon the former, the result was more than just a bunch of people yelling at each other. (Petulant yowling, incidentally, is the one thing that isn't more charming when done in a British accent).
Oh, and the other reason "The Dress Rehearsal" ruled? That cameo. THAT CAMEO! The English language has no words to describe how truly, utterly fantastic it was, though "transcendent" may come closest. Here, just go ahead and watch it on loop for all eternity.
What, you want me to actually recap it anyway? Fine: On the day of Bombshell's invited dress rehearsal, first-time director Tom is suffering from surprisingly pedestrian stress dreams. After "waking up" from a "being naked onstage" nightmare, he breathes a sigh of relief... only to discover that Terrible Ellis is lying in bed next to him, smiling his demented little smile and no doubt dreaming of all the lives he'll ham-fistedly attempt to ruin that day. Brilliant. And props, too, to Jaime Cepero for having the balls to return to Smash despite the way he was crucified by fans (and, uh, recappers) last season.
Honestly, I would have been content if the show had immediately cut to black then and there, Sopranos finale-style. Instead, after Tom recovers from his nested dream, we head to the Lyceum Theatre -- where everything that can go wrong during Bombshell's last run-through does. The sets are malfunctioning; the fog machine is going nuts; Ivy's zipper doesn't cooperate when JFK is trying to undress her during "Let's Do It For Our Country" -- sorry, I meant "Our Little Secret." And when he does finally get her dress off, Marilyn's negligee comes with it... exposing poor Ivy's spotlights to every cast member's friends and family. Man, Ivy's Humiliation Diary must be a long read.
Clearly, the show is in no shape to begin previews tomorrow. But Tom's got a terror-fueled can-do spirit that Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland would admire -- and in spite of enormous odds, he pledges to Eileen that he'll have Bombshell ready to detonate (in a good way) by 3pm on the day of its first scheduled preview. Eileen responds by saying that maybe Ivy should show her boobs on purpose this time. Hey, we've all got our priorities.
NEXT: Off-Broadway, here we come