Don’t let reality get in the way of your dreams.
Rachel Unraveled is a new comedy series from Rachel Ravel and Austin Spero. It stars Ravel as the titular Rachel, an aspiring actress who’s sort of convinced she lives in a musical and who’s grasp is constantly outside her reach. Rachel over-prepares for auditions, treats every other actor as a rival, and is wholly incapable of responsibility.
Rachel Unraveled is short. It’s a fast 13 minutes. But it’s funny and very high-quality. The production value is high; the show looks and sounds phenomenal. As far as web series go, Rachel Unraveled feels the most ready to slide right onto television if it wanted to. It would look right at home next to something like CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or Search Party on TBS.
In fact, it boasts a real polish that elevates it to a level above other web-based series. From the way it introduces new characters, sets up its setting, and establishes Rachel’s relationships and conflicts, it’s apparent that it’s been written with an eye to mimic the beats of a typical single-camera sitcom. It’s almost a shame that it’s so short because it plays like the first act of a 22-minute comedy before the first commercial break. It just feels like real TV.
Rachel Unraveled begins with an irreverent music number, revealed to be Rachel’s inner monologue while she’s actually in the middle of an audition for a very non-musical PSA gig. The show hard cuts to Rachel finishing her song to the confused astonishment of the casting directors. She’s prepared an elaborate production for this audition in her head, and disregarded the trivial matter of actually doing her homework. That she can’t possibly imagine why it’s not her ticket to the big time is the show’s central theme.
It’s this cheery delusion that shields Rachel from any sense of responsibility or reality. She creates nothing emergencies, rushing her best friend (played by The Bachelor‘s Olivia Caridi) to her apartment to staple head shots together. (They use hammers because she broke the stapler playing Scarface with her dog.) She doesn’t work. Instead she mooches off her father who grows increasingly impatient with her frivolous Broadway-related purchases. Rachel’s an actor, so therefore everyone else in the world must be too.
Rachel’s a suck and would be unlikable on paper if it wasn’t for the charisma and serious talent of star Ravel. And that’s the show’s ace in the hole. Rachel is the stuck-out nail who’s never heard of being hammered back into place. That she dominates her friends and kinda puts down the homeless doesn’t matter because dammit, there are big dreams on the line!
Revel plays her with a mix of idealistic earnestness and aggressive expectancy. Why shouldn’t everyone know it’s “break a leg” and not “good luck”? How come putting in your all isn’t received with adoration and an automatic starring role in Hamilton?
Ravel plays off-beat very well, previously appearing as nun-in-training Sister Dotty in Tuff Boys, a cousin musical series from Rachel Unraveled directors Ryan Harrington and Isaac Himmelman. While Unraveled is clearly a fictionalized semi-autobiographical vehicle, Ravel is well-suited and a natural talent.
Additionally, Rachel Unraveled boasts a decidedly not amateur cast for an ostensibly internet-dwelling show, which contributes to its sense of quality and what one can only assume are prime-time aspirations. Jon Rua, known for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s productions Hamilton and In the Heights, plays Rachel’s confidant and un-credited music partner, a homeless guitar player who lives on her stoop. The cast is rounded out by William Youmans and Marie-Christina Oliveras, both with lengthy film, television, and Broadway credits. Rachel Unraveled was a successful Kickstarter campaign, but it’ll be interesting to see what subsequent episodes will look like in terms of production and returning cast.
All in all, a really excellent first stab. Rachel Unraveled is a high-quality, funny, likable comedy and a promising calling card for Ravel and company.
Theme music “Rainbow Street” and “Infrastructure” by Scott Holmes.