Movie musical parody has some serious chops
You don’t have to be an aficionado of mid-20th century movie musicals to appreciate the humor of “Schmigadoon!” But it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Premiering Friday, July 16, on Apple TV+, the six-episode spoof offers up sly nods to classics such as “Oklahoma!” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “The Sound of Music” and yes, “Brigadoon” as it tells the story of Josh and Melissa (Keegan-Michael Key, “Key and Peele,” and Cecily Strong, “Saturday Night Live”), a bickering couple on a relationship retreat who wander across a wilderness footbridge into a land where everyone is happy and a production number is only a line or two away.
And it is there in Schmigadoon where they encounter such standard issue characters as the mayor (Alan Cumming, “The Good Wife”), the schoolmarm (Ariana DeBose, “Hamilton”), the bad boy (Aaron Tveit, “Graceland”), the flirt (Dove Cameron, “Live and Maddie: Cali Style”), the doctor (Jaime Camil, “Jane the Virgin”), the leprechaun (Martin Short), and the reverend (Fred Armisen, “Portlandia”) and his wife, the town prude (Broadway’s Kristin Chenoweth). And a whole lot of singing and dancing, sometimes to the dismay of the two newcomers, who find they can’t escape this Technicolor hell until they find true love.
The series was created as a love letter to Golden Age musicals by Ken Daurio (“Despicable Me”) and Cinco Paul (“The Lorax”), who aimed it at both musical and nonmusical fans.
“Everybody understands, basically, what a musical is,” Paul explains, “and so I think it has fun with all those tropes. And then Keegan’s character Josh hates musicals and wants nothing to do with them and doesn’t know anything about them. So he’s kind of the way in for all those people that … maybe haven’t watched ‘Oklahoma!’ recently.”
But there is real meat here for musical fans as well, as the production numbers are elaborate and the performers for the most part have respectable to serious musical chops, especially Chenoweth, Cumming, Tveit and DeBose, who all have extensive backgrounds in stage musicals and in some cases, Tony Awards. And those that don’t, such as Strong, a lifelong fan of the genre, acquit themselves quite nicely.
“I think while we’re just saying love letter … it was really important that we have legit Broadway stars in this …,” says the actress, who also has a producer credit here. “And when we filmed it the theaters (in New York) were shuttered, and it’s a sad time to see Broadway that way, and we got to make musical theater during this time. And it was really wonderful and that’s also our love letter to Broadway, I think.”