‘Smash’ battle between Ivy and Karen continues in second season

Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) in Smash.

Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) in Smash.

NBC’s musical drama Smash, which features Broadway at its best and its worst while trying to create a buzz-worthy musical, has never shied away from one ugly reality in the business: competition.

Since the pilot episode, fans of Smash have been picking sides, declaring themselves either “Team Ivy” or “Team Karen.”

The battle started innocently when Ivy, a Broadway chorus girl, and Karen, a fresh new face in NYC, auditioned for the role of Marilyn Monroe and blew the creative team away. After a callback, the competition began between the iconic role of Marilyn.

And so began the battle of Karen vs. Ivy.

No one can deny Ivy’s vocal prowess, just as you can’t deny Karen’s annoying innocence. Ivy’s paid her dues to the ensemble; she’s understudied roles that aspiring actresses only dream of. So with her vocal chops and stellar resume, why has she not landed a lead role yet?

It could be assumed it’s because favor was tossed in the direction of newcomer Karen Cartwright, who has absolutely no Broadway experience and is, as we’re reminded constantly, “green.” Which, in the eyes of director Derek Wills, is essential to playing a perfect Marilyn.

The writers want us to find Karen’s innocent perspective on the entertainment business cute and endearing; however, it quickly grows old. In fact, it almost becomes unrealistic. She doesn’t seem to know anything from what to wear for rehearsals, how to approach uncomfortable situations with ensemble members to the importance of carrying a pencil in her backpack. It seems her naivety also excuses a lack of common sense.

But it’s Karen’s biography on the official Smash website that perhaps best personifies this annoying innocence: she is “proud member of Actor’s Equity, and an even prouder daughter of Roger and Caroline.” We get it, Karen. You love your parents and show business. That’s all well and good. But alas, this valuable space that you used to flaunt your Equity card could have been used for something useful, like maybe something that will prove you know what you’re doing.

Because “Golden Sprout Champion” of the Iowa State Fair just isn’t going to cut it. You’re in the big girl leagues now, with people who actually have credits to their name.

Then there’s Ivy Lynn.

That’s not to say that Karen isn’t talented. She is but in a different way. Karen has more of a rock voice, which is beautifully displayed when she sings “Caught in the Storm” and “Good for You” from Smash’s new musical, Hit List. With every sneak peek that NBC releases, it looks more and more like Karen will leave Bombshell for Hit List.

And that is great news because Karen’s voice is far better suited for the new show.

While Karen struggles through most of Bombshell’s powerhouse songs,  Ivy can belt every note almost effortlessly. As seen in her “impromptu” performance of “They Just Keep Moving the Line”, Ivy has the ability to show up prepared at a moment’s notice and blow the audience away.

But even Ivy isn’t without fault. While she may have a resume to die for and enough talent to be Broadway’s next diva, she has enough drama in her personal life that keeps some viewers from connecting with her. She’s been forced to live in the shadow of her mother and turns quickly to drugs to solve any minor health problem. Once Ivy secures the role of Marilyn for the workshop early in season one, she quickly turns on Karen, fighting to keep her out of the show.

And in the beginning of season two, after Karen performed the role in a pre-Broadway engagement in Boston, Ivy sees the same unfriendliness extended to her.

Though, in Karen’s defense, Ivy did sleep with her ex-boyfriend.

Regardless of her personal life, because what really matters is what the audience sees on stage, Ivy has worked hard and deserves the role of Marilyn. She spent ten years as an understudy and in the ensemble of numerous Broadway productions. She was a perfect Marilyn in the workshop. She knows all the songs and the blocking…

So why isn’t she Marilyn yet?

We can only guess, and hope, that in season two Ivy finally gets her chance to step into the spotlight.

Which side of the never-ending Smash battle are you on? Let us know in the comments!

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