Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom kicks off live tour: 'We’re going as dirty as we can'
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is unlike anything else on television and now it has something else other TV shows don’t — a live musical tour. As co-creator and star Rachel Bloom jokingly pointed out at the tour’s inaugural show in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, you don’t see Westworld or Modern Family going on the road.
Bloom, who describes herself as the “creative director” of the tour, tells EW, “We’re the only show on television with original music every week, and it just seemed like a waste to not do a live tour.”
The cast is in a holding pattern, waiting to see if they get picked up for what would be a fourth and final season; the time seemed right for them to hit the concert stage. “Who knows what we’ll all be doing when the show ends, but we’re all just waiting out this hiatus, so most of us were free,” says Bloom.
The concert tour is making 10 stops across the country, ending a stone’s throw away from the show’s hometown of West Covina, California at the Covina Center for the Performing Arts, which Bloom describes as a gesture of affection for the city that has served as the show’s setting for three seasons. “We don’t film there as much as we’d like because it’s so far from our home base, pun intended, and I wanted to give something back to the city in a small way,” she says. This includes allocating tickets for West Covina City Council members and initially selling tickets in person at the box office to give San Gabriel Valley residents the first crack at them.
Planning the tour has proved to be a bit of a headache for Bloom because the cast lineup changes for every show and there are more than 100 songs to choose from. “It’s been a nightmare putting together the setlist. It’s become, like, my full-time job,” she says. “You don’t want to overwhelm everyone, but when you have 100-something songs to choose from, it’s really, really hard to narrow it down.”
The inaugural show at The Largo featured nearly the entire core cast, minus Vella Lovell (Heather), who is currently appearing in Significant Other at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse. Cast members David Hull (White Josh) and Donna Lynne Champlin (Paula) will step in and out at various points throughout the run. Former cast member Santino Fontana is also missing entirely from the proceedings, but for Greg fans, songwriter Jack Dolgen fills in to bring some of the grumpy bartender’s tunes to the stage. “It’s a really wonderful way to hear a new version of a song sung by a person who wrote it,” notes Bloom.
The show contains a wide mix of tracks from all three seasons, including at least one featured song for each cast member. At the Largo show Tuesday, the cast threw it back to the first season for some old-school mean girl Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) with “Women Gotta Stick Together” and “I’m So Good at Yoga” (with some great chakra-aligning choreography from the cast). Donna Lynne Champlin also returned to her first-season ballad “Face Your Fears” and tore the house down with her impressive belting chops. Pete Gardner donned his iconic white suit to jam out to season 1 fan-favorite “Getting Bi.” And it’s wouldn’t be a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend show without Rachel Bloom’s rendition of one of the most relatable ballads ever penned, “You Stupid Bitch.”
There’s also plenty of newer stuff, with Vincent Rodriguez III (Josh) explaining how his lifelong adoration of Gene Kelly led Bloom and team to pen season 3’s “Head in the Clouds” for him as a way to pay homage to his idol. Scott Michael Foster brings the hilarity multiple times with season 2’s Ed Sheeran-infused “Let’s Have Intercourse” and a gut-busting take on season 3’s “Fit, Hot Guys Have Problems Too” alongside Hull and Rodriguez (there’s a comedic bit with the costuming that we won’t ruin for you, but suffice it to say, it will have you crying with laughter). Bloom and Foster even broke out their impressive tango moves for a rendition of “Horny, Angry Tango.” And the cast finds unique, fun ways to play with numbers like “F—ton of Cats” and “Heavy Boobs.”
“The thing I’m proudest of is that I don’t think we have a single dud,” says Bloom. “The sheer number is actually what I’m proud of because people spend years developing musicals that have 10 or 15 original songs, and we have to crank them out within a period of a few months.”
The live performance has a rough-around-the-edges, putting-on-a-show vibe that befits the scrappy nature of a series that has worked hard to convince viewers to see past its purposely cringe-worthy title. The tone is intimate and casual, and the actors perform as themselves and winkingly riff off their onscreen personas. These are well-established TV talents, but watching the live show feels like discovering that backroom comedy show or fringe festival play that exists purely for the thrill of it; it hasn’t been sanded down to be palatable to a mass consumer group. The cast goofs off, laughing through numbers and hamming up their sexy, butt-shaking dance moves.
Bloom leans into that, choosing to perform the explicit versions of songs and making frequent outré jokes. “We’re going as dirty as we can,” she told EW. More than that though, she wants the cast and audience to embrace the humanity of the experience. “Take down that fourth wall. Let the audience see your process. Let them know you’re human,” she says. “An audience wants to see humanity. Musical theater is musical theater. You’re putting on a play and you can’t break that fourth wall. But I think this general concept of musical theater of like ‘you must be perfect at all times’; there’s something very plastic about it, and you don’t really see the humanity.”
That being said, Bloom says she’s not opposed to the idea of taking Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to Broadway somewhere down the line. “We’re actively thinking about that,” she says. “It’s just a matter of what story do you tell and how do you make it different from the show and how do you condense a four-season show down to two, two and a half hours.”
For now, the live version of the show exists in what you could call its Off Broadway version — a fun and subversive little live taste of the puzzle pieces (including the cast full of triple threats) that make up one of the most consistently provocative takes on romance, happiness, and mental health on any screen.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Live is now touring various cities around the country.