Lin-Manuel Miranda Dropped By Rachel Bloom's 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Live At Radio City', And That Wasn't Even The Best Part
After four seasons and two years of live shows, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend drew its final curtain last night before a rapturous house at the historic Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The show’s star and co-creator Rachel Bloom was joined on stage with cast members Donna Lynne Champlin, Vincent Rodriguez III, Pete Gardner, Vella Lovell, Gabrielle Ruiz, Scott Michael Foster, David Hull, Michael McMillian, Burl Moseley, and Danny Jolles, as well as co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna and her fellow songwriters for the series Jack Dolgen and Adam Schlesinger. But that’s not all. Hamilton creator and human sunshine Lin-Manuel Miranda made a surprise appearance, which sent the whole audience wild. And as I said on Twitter, that wasn’t even the coolest part of this insane and incredible show.
The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend live tour features its energetic ensemble performing a selection of catchy and comedic songs from the acclaimed musical dramedy. However, the chosen tunes are not put together in a narrative arc, but in a more cabaret concert form. The cast addresses each other by their real names, and there’s a real “putting on a show” vibe that will make any theater kid feel seen. (Hi.) Some performers lean into the personas created on the show, like Gardner, who brought Darryl’s adorably dorky dad vibe to every number whether he was belting out the Huey Lewis-style bisexuality anthem “Getting Bi” (a personal favorite) or bouncing about as a game and goofy backup dancer in “I Go To The Zoo.” Others played against type, like Hull, who portrayed the coolly snarky White Josh. In the live show, Hull is a dynamic clown, happily spitting out geometry puns, cavorting about in a gold fringe skirt and matching tube top, or being his own hype man by shouting his name into the mic as he exits!
Naturally, Bloom was the MC of the show, welcoming the audience and causing a commotion when she suggested those in the cheap seats take the vacant ones in the front row. As a wave of excited fans rushed to the front, she cried out, “I’ll Venmo you the difference, Radio City!” She did crowd work with those closest to the stage, bantered with her band and co-stars, and shared tidbits from behind-the-scenes. (Like that she and her onscreen-crush Rodriguez are happily married to “cubs” in real-life, meaning men who are big and hairy but not big enough or hairy enough to be dubbed “bears.”) For “I’m a Good Person,” she ran into the audience and threatened a fan to validate her or else she’d bring out a bad stand-up: Enter aspiring comedian Dr. Roth, A.K.A. Dan Gregor, A.K.A. Rachel Bloom’s husband! In a lab coat, he delivered a string of hackneyed jokes, which earned generous laughs. Then, after he took a bow, Bloom revealed Gregor had just landed in NYC. The idea to include him in this—the second/last of the Radio City Shows—was last minute, but he happily penned some purposely poor punchlines for the occasion! While complicated choreography, quick changes, and a hilarious and ambitions sex medley showed all the planning that went into this event, the kind of raw spontaneity shown with Bloom’s tangents brought an added oomph to the stage show, making the audience feel like no other audience got exactly what we did. And that became very clear when Lin-Manuel Miranda came out.
Every member of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend got at least one spotlight moment. For Gabrielle Ruiz’s, she began by thanking the person who made her casting on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend possible. She explained how Bloom and McKenna had been asking around the Broadway community for recommendations of who might be a good fit for the role of Josh’s yoga instructor girlfriend. Ruiz said the person who gave her her break on Broadway also gave her name to Bloom. And so she wanted to take the opportunity to thank him tonight. When she said, “Lin-Manuel Miranda,” screams were heard throughout the theater. We took to our feet as the Broadway icon humbly came out on stage and his In The Heights co-star beamed, “Thanks for the rec!” Then, Ruiz invited Miranda to sing with her. He claimed not to know the song, and she advised him to just ad-lib agreements along the way. The song was Valencia’s dubious ode to sisterhood, “Women Gotta Stick Together.”
As Ruiz guided Miranda into the audience, she pointed at women in the crowd and happily sung insults at them, like “this girl smells like sausages, but there’s nothing wrong with that!” Miranda followed behind mock-horrified, sweetly dolling out apologies, like, “I’m so sorry, Ashley!” Then, to roaring applause and cheers, the pair salsa danced off stage.
Beyond being one hell of a cameo, this number is one of several that gave a unique spin to how an ep’s song was performed. Some—like the Spice Girls-inspired “Friendtopia” and “Let’s Generalize About Men”—were given no new context and worked thrillingly as is. But after the latter, Hull and Foster took to the stage to remind us that “Fit Hot Guys Have Problems Too.”
But women expecting to see Whi-Jo and Nathaniel strip down were in for a surprise. When the two tore open their button-down shirts, what was underneath was not their naked, muscular torsos, but white t-shirts with crudely drawn-on abs! Howls of laughter burst forth and continued as the two struggle to take their button downs off while still singing and holding microphones. Some flailing and teamwork were involved to the delight of the crowd. Then, out runs Rodriguez, wearing Josh’s fireman-stripper costume. The number briefly screeched to a stop as they scold him, saying they’d all agreed they WEREN’T going to do nudity! (“We just talked about this!”) Playing into Josh Chan’s dopiness and unstoppable enthusiasm, Rodriguez turned being a hot, topless dude into a sensational bit! And then as it came to the part where—in the show—they rip off their pants, he stood alone, pantless and aw-shucks. The crowd went wild. Again. We also went wild anytime Donna Lynne Champlin came out to sing, because duh.
Champlin has a voice that can rattle the rafters and souls, and the audience knew it. When she entered for her first song, the audience gave her a standing ovation, to which she cried, “I haven’t done anything yet! Make me earn it!” She would, bringing Broadway diva to “Maybe This Dream,” “The Miracle of Birth,” and “Face Your Fears.”
Other sensational highlights included a rendition of Darryl’s “My Sperm is Healthy,” which was a real family affair! Joining him as the dancing sperms were Gardner’s real-life sons, who he reminded in the middle of the number, “I had sex with your mom, twice!” Speaking of sex, the sex medley was as hilarious as it was outrageous, boasting snippets of “The Sexy Getting Ready Song,” “Sex with a Stranger,” “Oh My God I Think I Like You,” “Strip Away My Conscience,” “Let’s Have Intercourse,” the vibrator lament “The Buzzing from the Bathroom,” and, of course, “Period Sex,” which included a giant bloody tampon prop. But the most outrageous bit came in the encore, where Bloom not only busted out her show’s ode to hefty mammaries but also busted out her own.
“Heavy boobs” is a song that comically demystifies breasts as “sacks of yellow fat,” complete with a dance number that slings them about and makes every boob-haver cringe with sympathy pain. As Craxy Ex-Girlfriend Live began, Bloom offered a chipper warning there would be graphic language, content, and maybe graphic nudity. Freed from TV censors, the cast gleefully dropped f-bombs throughout. (A “Buttload of Cats” became “A Fuckton of Cats.”) Then, in the final number, Bloom delivered on the promised nudity. First, she took off her sequined shirt to reveal a nude-colored bra. As she danced, a big white skrim was lowered from the ceiling and hid her from the audience. A bit of burlesque followed. Backlit, her shadowy silhouette hit the skrim as she took off her bra before a cheering but obscured audience. But she wasn’t through yet.
Cut scene from the televised Crazy-Ex Girlfriend Live Show.
In the TV-edit of the song, she sings, “Here is a list of all of the objects I can hold under my boobs: stapler, ten pencils, paperback copy of Arabian Nights, dog bowl, remote control, hardback copy of Wuthering Heights.” At Radio City, she wasn’t going to make us take her word for it. Bloom stepped out from behind the skrim, her breasts bare save for some sparkly red pasties, and then her girl group (Lovell, Ruiz, and Champlin all wearing bras over their tops) dutifully handed her a laundry list of items to stick under them. Admittedly, I was too far away to make out all of them, and Bloom’s narration got obscured by the whoops and cheers as the crowd marveled over what the hell was happening! But one by one, Bloom put a book, another book, a stapler, etc, under her boobs in a unique feat of strength. Her breasts held one and another and another. And once she raised her arms in victory, the crowd once more was on its feet.
I mean, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pretty cool. But can he do that?
Header Image Source: CW