‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Live’ brings the show’s humor, talent to Medford

A promotional image for the 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' live show is pictured. Via The CW

Content warning: This article mentions depression and suicide.

On the fifth stop of their national tour, Rachel Bloom and her co-stars on The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (2015–) brought the show’s witty songs and high energy to Medford Square. At the Chevalier Theatre, which Bloom playfully noted resembled “a really nice synagogue,” cast members performed over 20 of the show’s 100+ original songs for its spirited crowd. The performance’s clever banter, self-deprecating humor, impressive vocal performances and empowering commentary on sex and mental health proved that Bloom could bring the fans’ favorite aspects of the show off-screen and to a live audience.

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is a musical comedy-drama featuring Rebecca Bunch, played by Bloom, a high-achieving New York City lawyer suffering from depression and anxiety who imagines her life as a series of musical performances. In the show’s pilot, she uproots her life and moves across the country to West Covina, Calif., the home of her childhood ex-boyfriend, Josh Chan, played by Vincent Rodriguez III. On April 5, Bloom, Rodriguez and most of the other core cast members returned to the East Coast to share Rebecca’s and Josh’s crazy antics with the show’s dedicated fans — fans so dedicated that tickets were sold out at the Wilbur in just a few minutes, causing the show to be relocated to the larger theater in Medford.

One of the most celebrated aspects of the show is the tracklist, which parodies everything from punk rock to country to prominent Broadway show tunes, and covers topics from mental illness to giving your first handjob. The tour’s setlist didn’t disappoint, supplying the same variety in the live show. Early in the night, Rodriguez lent his vocals and dance moves to the old-school “I’ve Got My Head in the Clouds” (2017), a song that he explained was written for him as a way to honor his idol, Gene Kelly. Pete Gardner (Darryl) brought some humor to the cringe-worthy daddy-daughter motif of country music with “I Love My Daughter (But Not in a Creepy Way)” (2015) and Donna Lynne Champlin (Paula) got cheers and laughter from the crowd during the ABBA-inspired “First Penis I Saw” (2017).

Despite the playful, satirical humor of the lyrics, the night wasn’t without its impressive musical performances. In the final song before the encore, Champlin showed off her Broadway-alum vocals with “Face Your Fears” (2015), a song that her character powerfully belts at Rebecca in the third episode of the series. Songwriters Jack Dolgen and Adam Schlesinger also lent their talents to perform songs with Greg, since actor Santino Fontana was absent from the tour. Schlesinger showed off his typically behind-the-scenes voice and piano skills in “What’ll It Be?” (2015), a singer-songwriter tribute to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” (1973). The performance was a highlight of the night for Greg fans, who have been aching for the sarcastic bartender since his character left the show in season two.

Bloom, Rodriguez, Gardner and Champlin were joined by Gabrielle Ruiz (Valencia) and Scott Michael Foster (Nathaniel). David Hull, who plays “White Josh” or “WhiJo,” was not at the performance in Medford but was present for other shows on the tour. He and Vella Lovell (Heather), who is currently featured in Joshua Harmon’s “Significant Other” (2015) at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, were both sadly missed, along with a few fan-favorite songs like “Oh My God, I Think I Like You” (2016) and “We’ll Never Have Problems Again” (2017) that didn’t make the setlist.

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” in addition to being celebrated for its music and humor, has also been praised for the way it addresses serious topics like objectification, sex positivity and mental illness. From playful banter about bra sizes to sobering discussions of depression and suicide, Bloom has been able to depict Rebecca’s character on screen in a way that doesn’t exploit her struggles for television drama. Instead, it meaningfully explores the relationship that young adults, women and people who struggle with mental health have with themselves and with the people around them. During the live performance, Bloom talked about the importance of being able to communicate effectively with her audience through Rebecca’s struggles. The show’s encore featured a chilling rendition of “You Stupid Bitch” (2016), a soulful ballad of self-loathing central to the show’s theme that clearly resonated with the audience, who shouted the lyrics back toward the stage.

As Bloom jokingly pointed out at the end of the night, one doesn’t see “Westworld” (2016–) or “Modern Family” (2009–) doing a live musical tour. Joking aside, the cast’s regard for and engagement with its fans was evident and meaningful to the audience who appeared just as grateful as the cast members that the show was renewed for a fourth season. Despite the show’s consistently low ratings, Bloom built a loyal fan base that was excited to see that even though Rebecca’s self-destruction is sometimes hard to watch on screen, Bloom’s live performance was anything but.