- Connecticut Columnist
This Friday, Rachel Bloom’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” returns for a second season on The CW. The series, a bright comedy about a lovelorn New York City lawyer who flees to California to follow a decades-old crush from summer camp, not just has some terrific comedy writing and a multi-talented cast (including many from the world of musical theater) but boasts a number of original songs per episode. While the musical numbers (which generally take place inside Rebecca Bunch’s Broadway-obsessed head) range in genre from Bollywood to alt rock to soft shoe, many of the best “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” numbers are direct parodies of Broadway songs. So, in anticipation of the beginning of season two, here is my list of the best Broadway-inspired “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” numbers.
10. Dream Ghost
In the midst of a big life decision, Rebecca ends up sitting next to her therapist on a non-stop flight from California to New York. But thanks to a few sleeping pills washed down with a Bloody Mary, Rebecca has a “Dreamgirls”-themed hallucination in which Dr. Akopian (Michael Hyatt) and two random passengers (played by “Hairpsray’s” Ricki Lake and “Glee’s” Amber Riley) try to give her guidance, Motown style. I could seriously listen to ten more minutes of Hyatt, Lake and Riley exposing the inner-demons of the other travelers in song.
9. You Stupid Bitch
While this one doesn’t have such obvious musical theater roots, “You Stupid Bitch” has shades of “The Winner Takes It All” from “Mamma Mia” and similar self-serious power ballads that routinely end up in pop-rock musicals. Staged as a live concert, this number exemplifies what “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” does best: it’s terrifically performed by Bloom, features some wonderfully tongue-and-cheek lyrics by Bloom with songwriter Adam Schlesinger and is somehow very, very funny and surprisingly melancholy.
8. His Status Is…Preferred
While the very talented Bloom is the creator and star of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” it is Donna Lynne Champlin who often steals the show as Rebecca’s coworker Paula. No stranger to the stage, Champlin has been seen on Broadway in “Billy Elliot” and John Doyle’s revival of “Sweeney Todd,” among others. Here, in a slinky jazz number reminiscent of the songs Stephen Sondheim wrote for “Dick Tracy,” she sings about her forbidden lust for a wealthy businessman.
7. JAP Battle
Hamilton and Jefferson have nothing on Rebecca and her law school rival Audra. This one is just start-to-finish hilarious, from the rapid-fire Yiddish to some pretty killer wordplay. It’s pretty great.
6. Settle For Me
It’s time to talk about Santino Fontana, a Broadway A-lister whose resume includes “Cinderella,” “Act One,” “Importance Of Being Ernest” and the voice of Hans in “Frozen,” who here plays Greg, Rebecca’s friend-zoned acquaintance. His first big musical number in the show is “Settle For Me,” a Cole Porter-esque black-and-white dance number straight out of a Gene Kelly musical. Fontana’s a very likable and charismatic performer and this pitch-perfect pastiche is just an ideal note for him to play.
5. Flooded With Justice
A “Do You Hear The People Sing?” style protest song all about leaky plumbing? You bet. I never knew I needed such a ditty in my life, but how wrong I was.
4. What’ll It Be
OK, technically “Piano Man” isn’t a musical theater song. But it was featured in the Tony-winning modern ballet “Movin’ Out,” right? It deserves a spot in this list, though, because of Schlesinger’s strong Billy Joel parody complete with weirdly detailed and smart lyrics. Fontana performs the hell out of it too.
3. Cold Showers
There’s been a lot of great “Music Man” parodies on TV, the most famous of which is probably the classic “Monorail Song.” But, in my book, “Cold Shower” gives that one a run for its money. A sharp-witted patter song that would make Meredith Wilson proud, “Cold Showers” finds Rebecca trying to convince an entire apartment building that not having hot water will lead to drug use…Confusing? Maybe. Hysterical? You bet.
2. Where’s The Bathroom?
Maybe my favorite number from season one is “Where’s The Bathroom,” the archetypical Jewish mother tirade done entirely within the context of a “Fiddler On The Roof” inspired patter song. Performed flawlessly by Tovah Feldshuh, a Tony-winning actress who has been seen in dozens of Broadway musicals, TV shows and movies, this one is incredibly clever and extremely relatable to anyone of the Jewish faith.
1. After Everything I Have Done For You
The other best number from the first season is also one of the most direct Broadway parodies, as “Done” perfectly skewers “Rose’s Turn.” We have a recreation of Mama Rose’s famous red dress, the name in marquee lights and, of course, a deluge of spiteful and unhinged lyrics performed expertly by Champlin. If I didn’t watch that season finale after midnight alone in my living room, I’d have given Champlin a standing ovation.