The scene opens with Karen Cartwright, a 24-year-old, Broadway wanna-be star, who is shown to be ambitious and hardworking. She exudes innocence and hope. Karen is a waitress, has parents from Iowa who want her to come home and have a better-paying career, and who don’t think much of her Broadway ambitions. She also has a seemingly amazing boyfriend Dev Sundaram; who is shown to love her a lot. Karen and Dev live in a very nice apartment together. Dev is shown to work for the mayor’s office. Karen and Dev’s relationship is sweet, as they both seem to be in complete sync with the other. Dev believes in and supports her dream and sticks up for her in front of her parents, a fact any girlfriend would love. He takes her to the “Marilyn” audition, reminds her Marilyn Monroe wasn’t about sex; she was about love and helps her prepare for the callback, a thing not many boyfriends would do.
In addition, Dev isn’t vying for his own Broadway career; neither does he think his career is more important than Karen’s. Karen’s rival is Ivy Lynn; this fact is made visibly clear. She’s not a star yet either, just like Karen; but just a chorus girl also waiting for her big break. “Do you want a ballad or up tempo first?” she says during a try-out with a wink. Their rivalry is established in the first five minutes of the show. Meanwhile, Julia Houston is a song writer/lyricist on a break from Broadway because her family–husband Frank and son, Leo–are trying to adopt a baby, and thus need to dedicate more time to this pursuit. Frank seems more involved with the adoption process (visit with social workers, interviews at the agency, criminal checks) and isn’t pleased when Julia and her writing partner Tom Levitt decide to plow ahead with “Marilyn, The Musical” which incidentally, is Tom’s assistant’s idea.
He gives Marilyn her first breath. At first Julia doesn’t like the concept because it’s so overdone, but quickly comes around to the idea, when she is convinced by Tom. Frank’s disapproval probably has something to do with Julia’s decision to do the musical. According to Frank, when Julia’s in production “you’re never here, you’re out all night. Leo and I go for days without seeing you.” But Julia doesn’t want anyone else to “do” Marilyn Monroe, as she feels it’s great opportunity. Frank relents, but reluctantly. It seems their relationship is going to be explored a lot–it be can’t imagined that Frank is truly happy that Julia is breaking her word. These two are polar opposites – buttoned-up proper Frank and the artist Julia. Frank was probably once as supportive as Dev, but in the present things, are pretty strained between the tow. Meanwhile, Julia raises an important question: “Why doesn’t anyone do new musicals anymore?” after reading about another revival of “My Fair Lady.”
Julia and Tom’s current Broadway show “Heaven on Earth” is a huge success. Tom and Ivy are good friends it is shown – he gets her to do the demo of Marilyn “as the wise man once wrote, never give all the heart.”; so he and she both can get an idea of how well she can play Marilyn. But instead of staying secret, the demo ends up going viral, because Eliss sends it to his mom, who puts it on YouTube. Tom, but especially Julia, flips out because it’s not ready and they’re going to get slaughtered by Michael Riedel. As they both feel that her performance needed a few finishing touches; before anyone else saw it. In Tom’s words, “He’s a Napoleonic little Nazi who works for The Post.” But Riedel loves it, “He thinks the number online is a smash.” (And there’s the name of the show.) Eliss’s job is saved! Tom even asks for his input on the rough score because “After all, it was your idea.” The number is the baseball number: “all men like to play at the national past time.”
Meanwhile, Eileen Rand is a Broadway producer who’s getting divorced from her husband Jerry, as there is nothing left to salvage in their marriage. They’re having trouble coming to a settlement as Jerry reminds Eileen that when they got married, she had nothing. “But love,” she spits back. Everything, including the production of “My Fair Lady” is going to go into escrow because of their arguing. Eileen needs something else, so she goes after “Marilyn.”, to make her mark on her own. And she wants the talented Derek Willis to direct the musical. Tom and Julia agree to let Derek direct one number as a tryout, so they can really see what he made up of; this despite Tom’s hatred of Derek. (Tom says Derek needs a complete personality change and a sex change for him to consider it.”). After cajoling from Eileen, Derek agrees, to give it a go. Hilty knocks the number out of the park. It’s shown to be fun and full of energy, with an obvious sexual undertone.
Ivy as Marilyn definitely pulls it off, thus is the consensus all around. They cut to an actual stage where Ivy is shown in a red dress with her hair done as Marilyn, the guys in sparkly NY Yankee uniforms. Julia loves it; Tom thinks it’s just alright, but that Ivy was awesome, and was head and shoulders above the rest. Julia pulls Tom aside and gets him to admit that the number was brilliant, but Tom is worried about putting the project in danger because Derek is “a terrible human being”. At tryouts for Marilyn, all the girls dress up as Marilyn except Karen, and immediately Derek likes her. This is a compliment since he just asked for Scarlett Johansson. Tom doesn’t want tryouts; he thinks the part should be Ivy’s, as she was liked by everyone, and has nailed the part. But she’s in the bathroom getting sick, so Karen tries out first, with a nice version of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.”
Derek and Eileen are interested, after watching her perform. Katharine as Karen is good- her innocence really shines through in her performance. She pretends to sing to Dev, and it gives her confidence and her voice becomes stronger throughout. It gets everyone’s attention. Not surprisingly, she gets a callback. They liked how she didn’t play up the sex, but in the callback, she has to play up the sex; she is informed. She and Dev watch “Some Like It Hot” to prepare until Karen gets a text to go to Derek’s. She doesn’t throw her morals, innocence, and hope to the wind by sleeping with Derek (cuz that’s why he called her). Instead, she sings a version of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” climbs on top of him, and at the last second she pulls away.
“Not gonna happen” she smirks; leaving Derek disappointed to no end. Ivy also is shown getting a call back. We see her mom isn’t really that supportive (or interested) regarding her budding career either. Karen and Ivy will possibly bond over their struggles for success and acceptance; from the looks of it. The final number of the premiere has Karen and Ivy singing “Let Me Be Your Star” for their tryout. Jack favors Julia and Tom favors Ivy. They both have powerful voices; Ivy is a bit more theatrical. But the question is, who will it be? The episode ends.