Ever since its debut in 2015, CW’s musical dramedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has consistently been one of the lowest-rated shows on broadcast television. But you would never know that from seeing the show’s live tour.
As soon as the main cast — led by creator and star Rachel Bloom — bounced out on the stage Friday at the Lincoln Theatre for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Live,” the hundreds in the sold-out crowd started screaming and cheering. The noise didn’t stop until the end of the rowdy two-hour performance, showcasing more than 20 of the show’s best songs, which have racked up hundreds of thousands of YouTube views — and even more since the show started streaming on Netflix.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” recently renewed for a fourth season, has a very personal relationship with its fan base. As Bloom pointed out during the concert, it’s probably because the show taps into very personal topics, mainly about relationships and dating. The series starts as a miserable single New York City lawyer named Rebecca (Bloom) makes the impromptu decision to move to West Covina, Calif., to try to win back her high school boyfriend, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III).
Things immediately go awry, and as the show chronicles Rebecca’s journey, it tackles themes of love, friendship, loneliness, mental health and much more. The supporting cast includes Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), Rebecca’s co-worker and best friend; Darryl (Pete Gardner), Rebecca’s boss; Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz), Josh’s girlfriend who is none too happy when Rebecca shows up, and Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster), who eventually becomes Rebecca’s love interest.
All of the above actors are participating in the tour and seemed giddy to receive the very warm welcome from the D.C. crowd. The audience especially roared when Bloom walked out on stage; when her castmates jokingly tried to get her to move on with the show, she refused, basking in the applause.
“I’m taking it in,” she said, beaming. “It’s like an erotic massage.”
Bloom warned everyone upfront that it would be a raunchy concert. (“We’re a network show, so we have to abide by FCC guidelines — but we don’t have to tonight.”) Not that anyone who watches the show would be surprised, given its frank talk about sex. The first number, which Bloom wryly called a song about “the joy of the single life,” was called “Sex With a Stranger,” an ode to hoping the guy you bring home for a one-night stand is not a murderer.
In addition to offering relationship advice (“Don’t go back to anyone’s apartment who wants you to hear their own band”), Bloom and the cast sang “We Should Definitely Not Have Sex Right Now,” which is exactly what it sounds like; “Let’s Have Intercourse,” about two people reluctant to admit they’re attracted to each other; “Horny Angry Tango,” about hate sex; and “Period Sex,” a song that Bloom explained was “too dirty to air on TV,” so it only lives online.
Part of the reason “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has developed its cult fan base is that it’s not afraid to talk candidly about uncomfortable topics. The writers also take aim at many societal norms, particularly with how women are expected to look and act. For example, Ruiz performed “Women Gotta Stick Together,” a parody of female empowerment songs. The peppy track encourages sisterhood and is peppered with vicious, cutting insults. (“Women gotta stick together / All across this land / Except Denise Martinez, that b—- I cannot stand.”)
Others in the same vein included “Fit Hot Guys Have Problems Too,” a sad man anthem performed by Rodriguez and Foster, and the tongue-in-cheek “Let’s Generalize About Men,” which concludes that all men (except gay men, who are great!) are terrible. Bloom said that the latter coincidentally aired the same week the Harvey Weinstein allegations were revealed, making it seem especially timely.
Of course, because it was Washington, President Trump got a shout-out, as Bloom joked he was in the audience: “He’s really pro shows about diversity and body positivity.”
Events such as this tour probably help keep the series on air, as the CW seems to accept that its young audience is the least likely demographic to watch the show on television at the same time every week. The tour, which wraps up a 10-city run Wednesday in Covina, Calif., almost immediately sold out — an important reminder that even shows that aren’t at the top of the TV ratings chart can still make an impact.