Rachel Bloom, one of the few people to get famous doing musical comedy on television, is filling the space between seasons of her CW series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” with public appearances. Saturday night she was at Largo at the Coronet Theater. Earlier in the week she had been at the Virgil as part of Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal’s Hot Tub with Kurt & Kristen and at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater taping an episode of Drennon Davis’ “Imaginary Radio” for NBCUniversal’s online subscription comedy channel, Seeso. But this was her own, sold-out show, “An Evening with Rachel Bloom.”
Black-clad in a leather jacket, Canter’s Delicatessen t-shirt, Lycra “disco pants” and Converse-style sneakers – later she would lose the jacket and t-shirt, for a performance of the song “Heavy Boobs” – Bloom bounded onstage to the strains of the Offspring’s “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” and rapturous applause.
The last time she had put on such a show in town, pre-"Crazy,” she said, 30 people came. This was different. Though her series has the lowest ratings of any show on the CW, it is also one of the best things on television, and Bloom won a Golden Globe award this year as best actress in a TV series, comedy or musical. The Largo stand felt like a coming-out party, and a coronation.
It would not be, she pointed out after an opening salvo of salty talk, a family affair; there were bad words and expressions of psychosexual weirdness just outside the reach of her sitcom. Bloom first got known for a YouTube video, an explicit erotic paean to Ray Bradbury whose title cannot be reproduced here. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” in which she plays Rebecca Bunch, a New York attorney who moves to West Covina, Calif. in pursuit of an old summer camp crush, originally had been developed by Bloom and “27 Dresses” writer Aline Brosh McKenna for Showtime, where premium cable rules, and the lack of rules, apply. It’s no kick against the uncensored Bloom to say that her series, as toned down for broadcast television, benefits from a modicum of circumspection. In any case, it has hardly hemmed her in – there have been songs about bisexuality, urinary tract infections and the burden of large breasts (see above), and the show itself is the whimsical story of a stalker.
Though there were passages at Largo that approximated stand-up comedy (some stuff about Beyoncé's “Lemonade,” other stuff about Marilyn Monroe), more of Bloom’s patter served as digressive introductions to her songs, most performed to backing tracks, a few to live accompaniment.
She also sang "Feeling Kinda Naughty,” about an unhealthy “girl crush” (“I want to kill you and wear your skin like a dress/But then also have you see me in that dress/And be like, ‘OMG you look so cute in my skin’”); and the anthemic, self-lacerating “You Stupid ...,” whose lyrics (“You ruined everything, you stupid .../You’re just a lying little .../Who ruins things and wants the world to burn/..., you’re a stupid .../And lose some weight”) sounded different when sung by a dude in the row behind me); and “Jazz Fever,” a song about syphilis.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” choreographer Kathryn Burns joined Bloom for the pre-"Crazy” “We Don’t Need a Man.” Along with composer Zach Sherwin, Bloom and Rachel Grate (as a lifelong rival) recreated their spectacular rap battle, “JAP Battle.”
Using the styles and conventions of popular music to mock social mores and romantic rites is nothing new, but there is something particularly inspired about the way it’s integrated into Bloom’s show and character. (It all translated well to the stage.) The darkness of the lyrics is at once relieved and underlined by the exuberance of the music, the joy in the performance; they feel satirical and aspirational at once, and onstage Bloom invested them with calculated theatricality and wild intensity.
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