Esther Dominy reviews Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a romantic musical comedy following Rebecca Bunch, a high-achieving New York City lawyer who, after a chance meeting with an old boyfriend, impulsively quits her job and moves across the country to the town of West Covina, California. Once there, Bunch intends to win back her former flame, with a cast of lively characters to help her on the way.

Each episode features several original songs, and despite my initial scepticism, its musical numbers are consistently funny, creative and plot-relevant, and a cast of impressive voices, many from Broadway backgrounds, mean each is performed with impressive skill. The songs are well executed pastiches, ranging from pop, to rap, to traditional show tunes, and are key to the show’s format without becoming intrusive.

What is surprising about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is its portrayal of mental illness. Its protagonist could easily be the kind of caricature you would find in a show with a name like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but Bunch is a refreshing and often relatable character. She could, perhaps, be described as crazy, but not in the way you might expect. Bunch’s mixture of obsessiveness, anxiety and self-loathing provides an unanticipated degree of realism and dark wit to a show of this genre.

In the decidedly un-sexy ‘Sexy French Depression’, Bunch walks greyscale through the streets of a Paris greenscreen, expressing sadness at her romantic misfortune, before the scene cuts to her bedroom – where she remarks “my bed smells like a tampon”. In another song, ‘You Stupid Bitch’, Bunch is depicted on a dark stage, glittering gown and all, belting out her self-loathing in a comically extravagant performance.

The show’s candid depiction of Bunch extends to her womanhood too. ‘The Sexy Getting Ready Song’ depicts the grim reality of beauty standards, and ‘Heavy Boobs’ the practical inconvenience that comes with Bunch’s double-Ds – “they’re just sacks of yellow fat”.

Beyond its seemingly unoriginal premise, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend possesses an intelligence, creativity and wit which propel it beyond its genre and premise to make it a show well worth watching.

Image: Prawny @ Pixabay

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