It’s not often that a primetime network TV show devotes three minutes of airtime to a “Les Miserables” sendup featuring hyper-specific references to Inland Empire utility politics. But it helps when you have the right people to pull it off.
Such are the sheer, nothing-else-like-it delights of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” the newest jewel in the CW crown. At the show’s center is Rachel Bloom, who in addition to being the show’s star and co-creator (alongside “The Devil Wears Prada” scribe Aline Brosh McKenna) is also one of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s” biggest fans.
When we spoke to Bloom, the talk kept turning toward the cast and crew that helps color this crazy, lovable slice of the TV landscape. From the writing staff to the songwriting team headlined by executive music producer Adam Schlesinger, she spoke about how it takes a village to raise a child (that occasionally sings therapeutic boy band parodies).
It seems like a nice added bonus that the people you’ve cast in these central roles get to have their featured moments. If you want them to grow, you can give them their own songs.
A lot of other people on our show, they’re Broadway people — they’re singers by trade. With the roles of Josh and Greg, we weren’t even necessarily looking for people who could sing. We were looking for the best actors. In the breakdowns, we were putting things like, “sing, rap, play guitar — we’ll write to your strengths.” Not in our wildest dreams could we have realized the kind of Renaissance men that we cast in both Santino and Vince — I mean, God, Vince has like three black belts.
Pete is a comedy/improv/sketch guy and would not consider himself a singer, but he has a really good voice. And he’s really in touch with his body. Vella is the same way. She’s a fantastic actress. She went to Juilliard, and I think with her training and with her natural abilities, she has the command over her voice. And so that was a really pleasant surprise for us when we realized, “Oh, we don’t have to Auto-Tune these people.”
It’s great that they’re all different kinds of voice types on this show, because you have Vince with more of a pop sound, you have Santino with the classic sound, you have Donna with the big Broadway belt, you have Pete with this twang, and then you have Vella with this like rock and roll thing that we’re so excited to write more for her. She sang at our cast party, we had a karaoke machine and she sang TLC’s “Waterfalls…”
Oh my God.
And it was so good! And Adam [Schlesinger] and I were watching her, and I was like, “We gotta write a ’90s song for Vella” and he was like, “Absolutely.” It was kind of like she was auditioning for us — except she was drunk and didn’t realize she was — and we never cease to be amazed and surprised with the talents of the actors we have on the show. It’s not what you hear about working with TV actors sometimes, where they’re afraid to be brave or they’re snobby or they’ll only film from 1 to 4:30 and then they’ll be in their trailer. We have such grateful theater people.
And people like Pete still get non-singing moments like “Having a Few People Over,” which probably wouldn’t exist if you were working with a shorter runtime.
Precisely. I really like that now, in any given episode, a lot of the time the second song is another character. And it’s about the B-story. That makes me really happy. I think that some of the most impactful storylines we’ve done come from exploring things like Darryl and [White] Josh. It’s funny because now they’re everyone else’s favorite couple, and I’m kind of like “They were my favorite couple first!” I was on set for their first kiss. I got to sit on set, and I was like, “Done! They’re my favorite couple, they’re the ones I root for. Don’t give a fuck about anyone else.” Next season we’re going to deal with them more.
Scott Everett White/The CW
One of my favorite moments was when you brought back the grocery clerk at the end of the season.
This is actually pretty great. We were writing the song “I Have Friends” and I had a rough draft written and I was brainstorming with Aline, our other executive producer, Erin Ehrlich, and our co-executive producer Michael Hitchcock. “I Have Friends” is all about those fun specifics, like “a janitor that lives in an RV behind the school.” And Hitchcock just busted out “grocery clerk with half an eyelid,” and I was like, “Done. Yes.” There was something so B-52’s about it and when I think of B-52’s I think of this kind of like nasal voice, which made me think of my friend Ben, who I did stuff at UCB with and was also on an improv team with our writer’s assistant Elisabeth [Kiernan Averick]. Before he even auditioned or knew we were thinking of him, we just started writing the lines in his voice. We had such a great deleted scene from Episode 3 of him and Pete just going on an improv run. It was one of the funniest things to watch all season, and hopefully we’ll release it on a DVD extra.
When you’re shooting scenes, it’s easy to toss lines in. Is there a lyric or musical moment that came kind of at the last minute?
For “Sexy Getting Ready Song,” the lyric “whisper your dick hard” originally was something else. We were in the recording studio, and Jack, who produced the song, was directing me and he was just like “Okay, this next take, I want you to whisper someone’s dick hard,” and I was like, “Jack! That’s a lyric!”
Greg Gayne/The CW
CBS hasn’t gotten into the live musical game yet. But if they do, is there a particular show that you’d like for them to do?
Well, I’m pretty indie musical theatre. So if they did anything Sondheim, if they did a live version of “Assassins” or “Company”? God, if you’re gonna do a live show, doing “Rent” would be just fun.
Would you want to be Maureen?
Oh, yeah. Yes, I’d want to be Maureen. [laughs]
I mean, anything Kander and Ebb. “Chicago,” “Cabaret.” For any Jewish comedian who can sing, I mean “Funny Girl” is kind of the ultimate, right?
As a big musical theater fan, do you have a go-to underrated show that, if someone was really digging deeper, you would point them toward?
For comedy, “Gutenberg! the Musical.” That soundtrack is amazing. It’s just such a great example of comedy musical theater that should be mentioned more. And “Light in the Piazza” is just brilliant. I love “Whatever I Dream” from “A New Brain.” Michael John LaChiusa’s “The Wild Party,” which I actually directed in college, is one of the most underrated musical theater scores. The way the genre changes as the show gets darker, it’s absolutely brilliant.
There’s another musical he wrote called “Hello Again.” The song “Tom” from Hello Again is just one of the greatest songs ever written in musical theater. “Tom,” “Safe,” and “Mistress of the Senator,” every song on “Hello Again” is a winner and I feel like no one ever talks about it.
Obviously, you have a deep love of musical theater and now have people asking for the sheet music to use for audition songs in the future. That has to be an exciting feeling.
Oh, it’s so exciting. If you could be in on all the emails! I am bugging people constantly because I want the musical theater kids out there to have sheet music and karaoke tracks! So everything that the fans ask, chances are I’ve already asked about 6,000 times. It’s really exciting for me to interact with fans because fans of the show are people that I would want to be friends with. This is a show that I would watch.
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