Prepare for the jazz hands (Picture: Apple TV+)
Schmigadoon! is both an homage to, and spoof of, the classic American musical, made by musical lovers for musical lovers. Chock-a-block with references, executive produced by Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels, and performed by a starry cast of Broadway heavies, the passion for the project shines through – but the overall effect just lacks a little consistent zing.
Following stale couple Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key), who are on a camping holiday to reconnect, the show sees them stumble across the enchanted land of, um, Schmigadoon via a magical bridge. Once there, they are surrounded by a cast fresh out of musicals including Brigadoon (obvs), Oklahoma!, Carousel, The Music Man and The Sound of Music, among others, and actors including Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Aaron Tveit, Dove Cameron, Ariana DeBose and Fred Armisen.
There’s fun to be had as the rather confused modern duo deal with the incessant perkiness of Schmigadoon’s turn of the century residents and their constant readiness to burst into song about pretty much anything, be it a lovers’ spat or corn puddin’.
Key as Josh is there to represent the non-musical fanatic, as he refuses to join in with the singing and explores all the options available to him (in more ways than one) to escape from Schmigadoon, which a magical leprechaun (Martin Short, because why not?) has proclaimed is only possible with his true love.
Strong, who has proven herself to be a talented singer through many SNL sketches (Diner Lobster, anyone?), is more the romantic fantasist as Melissa, happy to be swept along in the song-and-dance experience, and surely representative of about 95% of Schmigadoon!’s likely audience.
Herein lies one of the show’s slight issues, in that a lot of its fun is derived from knowing the musical references and feeling smug about them – which the series itself does acknowledge through Melissa at one point, when that knowledge becomes important to the plot.
Prepare for all the musical references (Picture: Apple TV+)
Its self-awareness is a strength too though, as it pastiches a lot of clichés in the genre through its songs and doesn’t shy away from emphasising some of the more ridiculous qualities in musicals.
Tveit’s Danny Bailey, the polo-necked operator of the Love Tunnel, is an incredibly unsubtle nod to Carousel’s Billy Bigelow, who enjoys some of the best pure parody moments in his singing, including knock-off bits from both If I Loved You and Soliloquy that roundly emphasise that character’s toxic ‘mixed message’ approach to love.
It’s also in Cameron’s Betsy, a vamped-up version of Oklahoma!’s Ado Annie, who has her sights firmly set on Josh and is of very deliberately indeterminate age. She and the girls’ chorus of the town relish some fun moments as they sing about their marriage goals (because some of them are ancient at 23) and cheerfully note that ‘all the girls that dilly dally end up dying in an alley’.
It’s Schmilly Schmigelow! (Picture: Apple TV+)
The couple gets their head turned by Schmigadoon’s inhabitants (Picture: Apple TV+)
However, other songs in Schmigadoon! don’t necessarily land as well, and some lyrics and music choices lack the bite or specificity that made Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, for example, such an exemplary parody of musicals.
Standouts in the cast include Broadway legend Chenoweth, cast slightly against type as the prim and cruel Mildred Layton – and when she gets her solo song in the spotlight, she absolutely crushes it.
Cumming as the closeted town’s mayor also gives his all, channelling Howard Keel in his overly enunciated, operatic singing style, while Jane Krakowski is criminally underused but brilliant as The Countess, with a standout scene that brings in all her over-the-top absurdity from 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt while presenting her with a song worthy of her talents.
Standouts include Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming (Picture: Apple TV+)
However, outside these highlights, Schmigadoon! sags slightly with more formulaic writing and character choices, lacking freshness, like its engine is idling between the ‘big’ moments.
Although it’s a fun ride when rattling along at higher speeds, and fun for musical fans to share and see their love for the genre in a new show, it’s likely they’ll find themselves inspired to re-visit the inspiration for the series over giving Schmigadoon! a second watch.
Episodes 1 and 2 of Schmigadoon! premiere on Apple TV+ on 16 July.
Credit: Original article published here.