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BWW Review: Rachel Bloom and Adam Schlesinger of CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND Bring Brazen Hilarity to The Appel Room

BWW Review: Rachel Bloom and Adam Schlesinger of CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND Bring Brazen Hilarity to The Appel Room
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND's Rachel Bloom, alongside Adam Schlesinger, performed at The Appel Room in Lincoln Center's current AMERICAN SONGBOOK series.
Photos: Kevin Yatarola

Rachel Bloom has no shame, and we're all better for it. Performing original music at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room this past Saturday as part of Lincoln Center's AMERICAN SONGBOOK series, along with co-writer Adam Schlesinger, Bloom arrived on stage with guns blazing. In her opening song about hooking up with a sexy stranger, she complained about the smell of his balls, begged him not to be a murderer, and hoped he wouldn't sell her kidneys on the black market.

Bloom is the creator and star of CW's musical comedy TV show, CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (CEG), now in its third season. Schlesinger is an Oscar and Tony-nominated songwriter responsible for Broadway's CRY-BABY and the song "That Thing You Do" from the Tom Hanks movie by the same name. Bloom, Schlesinger, and their other co-writer Jack Dolgen have written more than 100 songs for CEG so far--- all funny and all unusually daring for network television. (Of course, the lyrics are often cleaned up for TV, with the expletive-filled versions appearing on YouTube.)

Bloom is a self-professed musical theater aficionado, but as Rebecca Bunch on CEG, she and her team often turn the form on its ear with irreverent songs about period sex, healthy sperm, and all the painful things women do to their bodies to get ready for a date. It's THE BOOK OF MORMON times 10 with virtually no topic or bodily function off limits.

At The Appel Room, Bloom immediately disarmed the audience with her utter lack of pretentiousness. She joked about the "one-percenters" sitting up front at the tables and soon pulled a thong from the back of her leggings, throwing it into the audience and pronouncing that it might draw $5.75 on eBay. Her voice was clear and strong, and she appeared at ease and excited to share her work with the audience.

The majority of the evening's numbers were from the CEG songbook, including the aforementioned "Period Sex," "Let's Generalize About Men," and "The First Penis I Saw." Not all songs were about sex, of course. Bloom also performed the Jewish tune "Remember That We Suffered," which was sung by Tovah Feldshuh and Patti LuPone on CEG, and "F***ton of Cats," which premiered on TV just this past Friday.

BWW Review: Rachel Bloom and Adam Schlesinger of CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND Bring Brazen Hilarity to The Appel Room
Rachel Bloom on stage at The Appel Room.

Aline Brosh McKenna, who co-created CEG, joined Bloom on stage for two numbers, including the "JAP (Jewish American Princess) Rap Battle." Co-writer Jack Dolgen also appeared for a few songs, as well, first performing "I Could If I Wanted To," the ultimate slacker song originally sung by Broadway's Santino Fontana on the television show. Throughout the night, Schlesinger played piano and was accompanied on drums by Ethan Eubanks and on guitar and bass by Matt Beck.

Late in the evening, Bloom removed her t-shirt, appearing in a black bra for the song "Heavy Boobs." She also tap danced impressively while her male co-writers sang the duet "Tapped That Ass." Some of the songwriting team's rhymes are deliciously original. In "Tapped That Ass," the lyrics go: "On the table, you were willing and able / On the ottoman, you took a lotta man."

"Shit Show," another song performed by Bloom at The Appel Room but sung on CEG by Fontana, rhymes "lingua franca" with "Casablanca" and pronounces the relationship between Fontana's and Bloom's characters to have been "a play about pieces of feces."

At the end of the night, the audience cheered for an encore, which turned out to be a self-hatred anthem during which Bloom invited us all to join her, singing, "You ruined everything, you stupid bitch."

Of course, with more than 100 songs written for the show, they couldn't possibly perform every favorite. I missed hearing "Settle For Me" and "The Sexy Getting Ready Song," two memorable numbers from CEG's first season.

Bloom is a comedienne like Amy Schumer, an unapologetically horny feminist who values authenticity over the antiquated concept of decorum, but Bloom is more than just gutsy and "inappropriate." She illuminates the human condition with unrelenting truth. As a result, we see ourselves as we really are, and we have to laugh. That communal laughter is an admission to each other that we're all like this, and there's no sense pretending anymore. What a relief that a woman is finally telling the truth and entertaining us at the same time.

Melanie Votaw is a full-time freelance writer who has written 28 books. She covers travel, as well as theater, dance, and cabaret for Broadway World. Follow her on Twitter @melanievotaw.

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