'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Is The Mental Health Musical Every Creative Kid Needs To Binge Watch
9 January 2018, 17:35
Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna's musical comedy-drama is essential viewing for all aspiring performers.
(Spoiler warning - some minor plot spoilers for 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' season 1-3).
Fade in on a woman sat in a hospital room. After a recent suicide attempt, she is struggling to work out how to move forward with her life and feel like a whole person again when her doctor suggests that her mental health condition may have been misdiagnosed in the past. Suddenly filled with hope, she does what any sane person would do in that situation - she bursts into song. And not just any song - a full 'Wizard and I'-esque "I want" song in the classic tradition of musical theatre, complete with a chorus of imaginary backing vocalists and puns about penis.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Crazy-Ex Girlfriend.
Since it first aired on The CW in 2015, co-creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna's hilariously fucked up musical romantic-comedy about a girl who follows her ex to start over in his hometown, has gained critical accolades and garnered a dedicated cult following for its honest portrayal of mental health issues and anxiety, as well as a multitude of catchy and meticulously accurate Broadway and pop pastiches (the series recently recorded its 100th original song).
But for kids of a musical theatre persuasion, the series is more than just entertainment with a purpose - it is providing a much-needed public service.
Bloom herself spoke in a recent Colbert interview about the pressures drama students put on themselves, throwing the full weight of their personalities into performing, often to their own detriment:
"My whole life I'd been like 'I wanna be on Broadway and if I don't get on Broadway I'm a horrible person who should kill herself'. But that's how musical theatre kids think. Your talent is synomynous with your self-worth at times and it's not healthy".
It's fair to say that this is far from a unique experience.
Cut back to 2011 when this very writer was uncomfortably walking around in tights and a jock strap (sorry for that image), with grand aspirations towards the West End, surrounded by several hundred other fellow students trapped in the endless conveyor belt of agent showcases and tap examinations.
Yes, there were tears, tantrums and vocal nodules visible in all directions but it would all be, we convinced ourselves, worth it in the end. Because no matter how hard everyone told us it would be out in the real world, every talented kid in that building KNEW that they would be the exception who walked straight into Les Miserables and a life spent regularly treading the boards.
From my particular graduating class, I can count on one hand the amount of actors still auditioning today. Others found different creative outlets or career paths they found more fulfilling while some simply got fed up of waiting for a dream they had spent years focusing on that still felt desperately out of reach, despite their obvious talent.
It was a similar level of frustration that led Bloom to begin posting her own comedy songs online. Her skewed takes on MT filled a gap in the market for comedy audition songs, a genre that had been sadly dominated for years by 1920s-style dittys with laughs well past their expiry date or cringingly earnest semi-ballads about the struggles of being in your twenties in the big city. Songs like 'Jazz Fever', about contracting Chlamydia through music, or breakup anthem 'Pictures Of Your Dick' were a welcome breath of fresh air but also proved that if the right musical role doesn't seem to exist for you, perhaps the best course of action is to just invent one.
These viral clips eventually lead to her discovery by Aline Brosh McKenna and the commissioning of the TV show. And now, with Crazy Ex Girlfriend in its third season, the insecurities and self-doubting that so many performers suffer through are being put in the spotlight and communicated to them in a way that is direct, entertaining and in their Broadway-savvy vernacular. It may seem meta to outsiders (a musical about the mental health of people obsessed with musicals), but it is essential viewing for anyone in or aspiring to be a part of the industry. The message is clear - whether its an ex-boyfriend or your singing and dancing talent, you cannot let factors outside of your control define who you are or what makes you happy.
After years away from the piano, I have rediscovered my love of all things Broadway through binging this bright and uplifting show. But whether you have a love of jazz hands or not, this is still network comedy-drama at it's best. Because even if you have never put on a pair of character shoes, you can't deny the joy of watching an incredible cast run through an Abba parody about your first sight of a dick.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs Friday nights at 9pm on The CW with all episodes available on Netflix in the UK.