Review: Self-aware 'Schmigadoon!' a hilarious, must-see, spoof of classic musicals
Courtesy of Apple TV+
What will surely be ecstasy for musical theater lovers and connoisseurs, Apple TV’s “Schmigadoon” is not only one of the best parodies of classic, golden aged staples ala “The Music Man,” “Carousel,” and, obviously, “Brigadoon,” but it’s one of the best and funniest shows of the year. The irrevency that comes with trying to pull off “Deadpool” levels of self-awareness doesn’t come easy and often comes up short, but “Scmigadoon,” created by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, has enough appreciation for the genre and meticulous attention to detail to pull off a breezy send-up never in danger of overstaying its welcome. This is must-see comedic television.
Notorious and acclaimed production designer Bo Welch creates a wonderful, eye-popping soundstage for our characters to roam free. Like Dorothy stepping into Oz, when Melissa (Cecily Strong) and Josh (Keegan Micheal Key) inadvertently stumble into the magical place of Schmigadoon from their boring, colorless life in New York City, it’s an explosion of grandeur. From the painted backdrops to the plucky costuming, “Schmigadoon” crafts a wonderful homage to musical theatre lore, while at the same time poking fun at the very institutions that fostered it. In addition to Key and Strong, the entire ensemble is an all-star lineup of prominent Broadway icons (Aaron Tveit, Dove Cameron and Kristin Chenoweth) and comedic powerhouses (Fred Armisen, Alan Cumming, Ariana DeBose, Martin Short and Jane Krakwoski). There’s a little something for everyone.
Set to unspool weekly, all six-episodes of “Schmigadoon” were provided in advance for critics and though the second act stumbles in comparison to the buzzy, expositional first half, the series maintains its laughs and plot threads with ease. The premise borrows its main inspiration from “Brigadoon” where backpacking duo Melissa and Josh end up trapped in the magical sanctuary of Schmigadoon, a town where everyone randomly bursts into song and dance while stuck in their homegrown, traditional values. Melissa and Josh can’t leave, however, until they find true love despite assuming they already had. They run into an assortment of fun and eclectic characters on their journey, including Cumming’s closted mayor Aloysius Menlove, Chenoweth’s vile, purtian, antagonist Mildred Layton, and her Reverend husband played with hilarious glee by Fred Armisen.
Embedded into the show’s DNA, aside from the silly musical numbers guaranteed to be hits, is a self-reflecting look at mending broken relationships. Melissa and Josh enter Schmigadoon already on the rocks and perhaps looking for a fresh start. At first, they’re not sure how to embrace the strange new world, but as the show progresses and stars align, the Lorne Micheals produced vehicle manages to give both Key and Strong (the latter of which has been a breakout star on SNL and finally gets the much deserved spotlight) something worth singing about.
“Schmigadoon” doesn’t shy away from the cultural stereotypes that have lambasted classic musicals either, everything from pre-marital sex, female doctors, and interacial love affairs are lambooned with musical dexterity. As with most ensemble pieces, some characters get lost in the shuffle (Chenoweth’s villainous arch doesn’t kick into gear until the latter episodes and Krakwoski has all but six minutes of screentime across the entire season). But such are the fatal flaws of most musicals written in this era, some are more memorable than others. Except “Schmigadoon” far exceeds even the most optimistic expectations and hits all the sweet spots while leaving you humming the infectious tunes. You’ll be sad when it’s over.
SCHMIGADOON! premieres Friday, July 16th on Apple TV+