REVIEW: RACHEL BLOOM BRINGS ‘DEATH, LET ME DO MY SHOW’ OFF-BROADWAY

Rachel Bloom

Rachel BloomRachel Bloom is ready to confront Death.

As her legions of fans know, Bloom has a fascinating gift that allows her to sing about dark subjects  in a funny and deceptively light tone. As demonstrated by the brilliant musical television show she created, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, she has a penchant for writing songs that are simultaneously serious and hilarious. She’s uniquely able to solicit both happy and sad tears from her audiences between the chorus and the verse of the same song.

In her now playing off-Broadway play, Death, Let Me Do My Show, Bloom spotlights this signature blend of humor and heaviness. As the title suggests, the show is not only a meditation on grief and mortality but also on a range of other topics including parenthood, the COVID-19 pandemic, and mental health. The cabaret format works perfectly for this piece, which finds Bloom doing a call-and-response with Death throughout its 90-minute, one-act duration.

Death presents itself in the form of a person—specifically a heckler in the audience (*spoiler alert* played by a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fan-favorite actor). When Bloom opens the show and talks about how she wants to perform the version of it she originally conceptualized in 2019, Death literally interrupts her to tell her that ignoring death won’t make it go away.

And when it comes to Death and the collective trauma of the pandemic, Bloom has a lot to unpack. She was 9-months pregnant when the shutdown began in March 2020. She described fearing for the life of her newborn daughter, who had a health scare that led her to spend several days in the NICU. Bloom described muddling through that fear while simultaneously grieving the sudden loss of her good friend and creative collaborator, Adam Schlesinger, who was one of the first of Bloom’s circle to succumb to the virus.

Schlesinger, an executive producer of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, co-wrote “Antidepressants Are So Not A Big Deal” with Bloom – the song that finally won the duo their first Emmy Award after several nominations for the show’s original music. Losing her friend and writing partner had a profound impact on Bloom, and there was no way of moving forward with this show without talking about Schlesinger and how his passing shaped the person she is today. She explained that writing this show served as an outlet for her trauma and healing.

Rachel Bloom

“The show is me working out my emotions and conclusions in real time,” Bloom told  Town & Country. “A lot of people had an experience with the pandemic of being bored in lockdown; for me it was raising a newborn while grieving. It’s important to talk about trauma and grief, and to remember that this wasn’t just a bunch of people baking bread. I was also dealing with my own crisis; when you’re dealing with death, how do you move forward?”

Rachel BloomThough there’s no one answer to this central question, Bloom spends the show exploring it via some of the most personal and challenging moments in her life. Of course, these vignettes are broken up with cheeky musical numbers that offer a comedic reprieve from the existential conversations. These include “At the Base of the Rainbow Bridge,” about a pet waiting in a meadow in the great beyond for its owner before they cross over into the afterlife together, and “Lullaby for a Newborn,” an impassioned plea from a mother to her child to stay alive. Even Death has his own musical number: “I Feel Just Like Dear Evan Hansen,” a pitch perfect parody of the hit musical with particularly biting lyrics.

Death, Let Me Do My Show is a pensive piece that will leave audiences asking philosophical questions with sore faces from laughter. It takes a very special type of performer to be able to talk about such topics as deftly, gracefully and tastefully as Bloom does. There’s a very delicate line and she does a superb job of riding it without crossing it. Though even if she had, she thinks Schlesinger would find that funny. To Bloom, that’s the job of this tribute to her late friend.

Due to popular demand, Death, Let Me Do My Show is currently playing its second New York run. The show was staged earlier this year at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, and has also played sold-out runs in cities including Boston, London, and Chicago. This encore four-week production at NYC’s Orpheum Theatre continues through January 6, 2024. Get your tickets here.

Rachel Bloom

PHOTOS | EMILIO MADRID

About ALEX KELLEHER-NAGORSKI 171 Articles
Alex has been writing for PopBytes since 2011. As the Theater Editor, he focuses on all aspects of Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional Theater, and beyond. Alex lives in Western Massachusetts and can be found on Twitter at @AlexKNagorski.