Schmigadoon! (★★★★☆) put a smile on my face that stayed from the jubilant opening credits through the last reprise of the catchy title tune. This bright musical parody of classic American stage and screen musicals was made to put a smile on the faces not only of fans of the form, but even folks who make fun of films where swept-away lovers suddenly burst into song.
“Why is music coming from everywhere?” is a valid question from dating doctors Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key), who, while on a forest hike, stroll over a footbridge into the fantastical town of Schmigadoon. Really, they’ve stepped into their very own musical, modeled by creators Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio after the hits of Rodgers and Hammerstein, among other beloved tuners like Lerner and Loewe’s similarly-plotted 1947 Tony-winner Brigadoon.
Ripe for parody, that pastoral, Scotland-set musical was turned into a 1954 MGM flop, appreciated by some, but considered a disappointment even by the movie’s star Gene Kelly. Reportedly, Kelly and the film’s director Vincente Minnelli wanted to shoot Brigadoon on location in the Scottish Highlands, but were forced by budget-tightening execs to film instead on studio soundstages, which look grand but not exactly convincing.
Schmigadoon!, on the other hand, gaily leans into the staginess, with colorful production design by Bo Welch that, along with Tish Monaghan’s inspired period costumes, is in on the joke, down to the smallest detail. Just check out the eye chart in the office of Schmigadoon’s handsome Dr. Lopez (Jane the Virgin star Jaime Camil).
The excellent cast are on their game, too, particularly Strong, who beams with joy as musical lover Melissa joins in the spirit of the songful citizenry, striving “for peace and happiness.” Her partner Key is a deft touch hitting Josh’s notes of sarcasm, as the cynical surgeon desperately tries to figure out a way home from Schmigadoon. The couple’s escape will depend on finding true love, which won’t be as easy as either one of them thinks.
Given the plot, Josh and Melissa are allowed to sing and dance like regular people who just strolled into a musical — a good leg up for Key, who’s not as deft a song-and-dance man. The Schmigadoonians have no such limitations, though, so executive producer Lorne Michaels and company have stacked the supporting cast with Broadway vets, including Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana DeBose, Alan Cumming, Aaron Tveit, and Jane Krakowski in a delicious turn as The Countess, who all sing and move like the supreme musical theater talents that they are.
Tveit, playing town rapscallion Danny Bailey, is a delight breaking into a brisk soft-shoe as he teasingly croons to Melissa “You Can’t Tame Me.” And Chenoweth’s featured number, a bravura riff on The Music Man‘s “Ya Got Trouble,” shot in one dazzling take by series director Barry Sonnenfeld, is the sort of sterling achievement in musical filmmaking, performance, and choreography (by Christopher Gattelli), that might have led even Gene Kelly to stand up and cheer. Or, he might have danced along to the pithy, funny songs by Paul, and vibrant score by Christopher Willis. He’d have certainly been in on the joke of Schmigadoon!, brilliantly crafted as equal parts satire and tribute to some of the all-time great musicals.
Schmigadoon! is streaming exclusively on Apple TV+ with new episodes available weekly every Friday. Visit www.appletvplus.com.
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