Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Lives On
By: Iris Wiener
May 14, 2019: There is no stopping Rachel Bloom, the co-creator, writer and star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; the energizer bunny of the entertainment business, Bloom is currently touring with the cast of her CW musical comedy, in which they perform the hysterically poignant numbers that made the show a cult-hit for four seasons.
(Crazy Ex-Girlfriend saw its series finale earlier this year.) Despite having the dramedy Changeland set to hit movie theatres in June and a voice in August’s The Angry Bird Movie 2, Bloom is getting ready to take on Radio City Music Hall on May 14th and 15th. She spoke with Theaterlife about what fans can expect from the unique concert, and offered musings as to where Rebecca Bloom, her lovingly flawed alter ego, would potentially be after Girlfriend’s exceptional ending.
Theaterlife: What can fans expect from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Live?
Rachel Bloom: If you saw our final episode, the concert special, it will be similar to that except it will be longer and dirtier!
TL: In the live concert you are performing with the regular cast, as well as recurring and guest actors. However, you’re not playing your characters?
RB: In the live show we are playing ourselves as we interpret the songs, and sometimes that overlaps with characters. But what we try to do for every song is find what makes it unique for the stage performance. There is no attempt to re-create what we did on the TV show because we already did the most elaborate, filmic version! The perfect example of that is in the concert special, when Vella [Lovell] (Heather) does the song “The Moment is Me.” To make it specific to the live show we had [recurring actor] David Hull act as her back-up dancer, and they talk to each other throughout. With every song we like to elevate it and make it unique.
There’s a purposeful gang of people putting on a show/rough-around-the edges quality to [the concert] because there is a mix of people who come from comedy and people who come from musical theatre in it. I straddle both worlds. The thing that bothers me about musical theatre is the emphasis on perfection to the point that it’s not human anymore. I find that very alienating. With comedy it is sometimes the opposite; it is rough, and it can be lazy and shaggy sometimes too. We try to find a really nice mix for the shows where we pull back the curtain and improvise a lot. We have a very loose, be yourself approach. If you mess up, you can say you messed up. If your voice cracks it’s okay. That’s our mentality.
TL: Rebecca Bunch was fantastic in that she made impulsive, yet realistic decisions, and felt remorseful over having made them. She was allowed to make mistakes. How would your life have been different if you had had someone like yourself and/or Rebecca to watch on television?
RB: As a creator I’d be jealous that someone else created the show that I wanted to create! (Laughs) Had I seen it as a kid, I think it would have changed a lot [for me], especially because of the frank discussions demystifying love and acknowledging mental health. As a kid I really fell into fantasy with things that placed romantic love on a pedestal. It would have been really important. I have never thought about that!
TL: What is your earliest memory of yourself as a performer? As a child, were you running around the Thanksgiving table singing your heart out?
RB: That is me, on the nose! I’m an only child and a musical theatre kid. My mother is a pianist and my grandfather was an amateur actor, theater director and stand-up comedian- with an emphasis on amateur. I think half of his jokes were just stolen from books. He worked all his life selling technical manuals, but I think he just wanted to be performing all the time and that made him frustrated. The second that it became clear that I was musical, my grandfather really started teaching me songs and we fell into the rhythm of my mother playing piano for me while I sang. She used to play piano for him at parties.
TL: One of your most admirable traits is that you are outspoken about aspects of yourself that set you apart, traits that people sometimes label as “other.” You handle adversity with grace and humor at the same time. How do you rise above it?
RB: It stems from loving musical theatre and being made fun of growing up. What’s always interested me an artist and a writer is what society expects of you and tells you to be, versus what you actually are; that is what inspired me to start doing pop music. It’s literally what inspired the first music video that I wrote [“F—k Me, Ray Bradbury”]. Most sexy pop songs were about hot guys with ripped abs in a club. That’s not what I’ve ever gone for. I’m not saying that I go for 91 year-old authors, but it’s a heightened version of the realities. In fact, when I see a guy with ripped abs in a club, I’m like, “Ugh. Put on a shirt! What are you doing?” I actually don’t trust those people. They made fun of me when I was growing up. The same thing happens with musical theatre, where it says, “This is what a woman is. This is what a man is. This is how love works.” There was always a weird, cognitive dissonance comparing that, and I would try to emulate and fail very badly, realizing, “Wait, what if they’re the ones who are wrong and not me?”
TL: You were a backstage correspondent at the Tony Awards in 2018- the next best thing to being the host! What advice do you have for James Corden as he hosts this year?
RB: James is fine! I talked to him about it. There’s no advice I can give him. The Tonys are an interesting beast because they’re an award show broadcast nationwide, but it’s only about art you can see if you go to a specific city. With every other award show you can watch movies and TV everywhere. I think the job that would be hard and almost fun for me is finding the balance of how to cater to the audience that’s watching the Tony Awards, and still try to make it funny enough so that if someone is casually watching it and didn’t know these shows, they would still get it…and of course, just making the jokes actual laugh-out-loud jokes.
TL: What would you like to think Rebecca Bunch is up to now?
RB: At the end of the series Rebecca has finally become a songwriter, and the last line of the series is, “This is a song I wrote.” It was in the plan from the beginning, and it was the whole point of the series: You write your own song and you write your own story; don’t try to be something you can’t be. I imagine that Rebecca is now writing songs, but I don’t really know. It really feels like there was a person that existed, we were kind of like gods who invaded her life, we f—ked up her life, and then we left her life. Now she’s still out there living, but [the difference is that] now she has freewill. She could be anywhere. She’s also exploring herself artistically in whatever form that takes.
Photography: Photo: Greg Gayne