Rachel Bloom: Live! review, London Palladium: a beautiful, heart-stopping, breathtaking hodgepodge 

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Rachel Bloom
Rachel Bloom Credit: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images North America

Until Rachel Bloom was in her early twenties, she listened only to show tunes – most of them, she quipped on the last of her two-night “tour” in London, from before the Sixties. The comedian, actress and songwriter grew up beholden by spotlight-stealers such as Carol Burnett and Ethel Merman, women who combined heart with humour and poured both out on stage.

It was this autodidactic fascination that led to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bloom’s four-series long musical comedy that picked up two Emmys and a Golden Globe before its finale last year. Unabashedly confronting themes of mental illness (adorable-awful heroine Rebecca Bunch, who is played by Bloom, is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in season three) and female sexuality with a hilarious honesty never before seen in a US show – let alone in song form – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend developed an obsessive international fanbase, a lucky 4,600 of which nabbed tickets to her sold-out live shows.

On the same stage, Bloom informed us, that Judy Garland performed Funny Girl, she was blending favourite songs from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend with her own stand-up comedy. There was a skit in which Bloom and other unexpected cast-members (Pete Gardner and Scott Michael Foster) posed that so fans could take photographs, another where crowd members joined her in the Spice Girls-inspired group number Friendtopia. Bloom messed up her cues and re-trod the tap steps she missed in We Tapped That Ass (not a song to explain in a family newspaper).

At one point, she triumphantly bellowed out the lyrics: “a beautiful, heart-stopping, breathtaking… s---show!” and it felt like an apt description for the Fringe-level hodgepodge that was delighting the crowd.

Nevertheless, this proved an adept vehicle for displaying Bloom’s many talents. Her off-the-cuff stand-up glinted sharply, with jokes about fertility and Mary Poppins (convincingly described as a gaslighter) both funny and entertainingly shocking.     

Rachel Bloom Credit: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images North America

Bloom can sing, too. Born in California, she studied drama at New York University and has performed with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, and she delivered numbers such as Sexy French Depression and The Math of Love Triangles with impressive polish.

While that didn’t quite compensate for the lack of fantastical trappings with which the songs are presented in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom: Live nevertheless left one thinking how good a full-blown stage musical by her could be: outrageous fun, deliriously candid, constantly teetering on the edge of acceptability. Ideally, she would be in it.

Bloom closed with You Stupid Bitch, a kind of reverse torch song that directly plummets to the depths of Bunch’s troubled psyche. Here, glittery top rebounding the spotlight, Bloom was pithy, hurt and shimmering. Garland would have raised an eyebrow.