Schmigadoon! will cure your lockdown blues when you become giddily trapped in a 1940s musical.
Overture, curtain up, Schmigadoon! is here to cure your lockdown blues.
The new Apple TV+ is a camp delight as it turns musicals inside out, lovingly, and with just enough skewering for those who have never seen the likes of Brigadoon nor Oklahoma.
Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa (Cecily Strong) may not have tied the knot, and it’s just as well given the spark is fizzling out of their relationship. So they embark on a hike to help bring back the lurve, only to wander through the woods onto a strange island that appears through the mist….
Behold the hokey, perky town of Schmigadoon! -where everyone sings & dances Broadway-style. And oh what style.
Yes siree, borrowing a premise from Brigadoon is but one of the kitsch pastiches in this series from Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio (Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, Despicable Me).
The town centre looks like a repertory theatre set (or possibly Main Street in Dreamworld) complete with pastel colours, astroturf and a blue sky cyclorama. A peppy ensemble, beaming from ear to ear, welcome our puzzled couple to town in a song that is clearly Oklahoma NQR. It’s giddily unnerving.
Amongst the townsfolk is Mayor Aloysius Menlove (Alan Cumming) who is ever so slightly closeted but strolls into the forest to sing about the love that cannot speak its name; Kristin Chenoweth as Mildred Layton (Kristin Chenoweth) wife of Reverend Howard (Fred Armisen) who insists on chaste behaviour while holding the bible upside down; and sideshow operator Danny (Aaron Tveit) who is dreamily-alluring despite his bad boy streak.
There’s also country teen Betsy (Dove Cameron) who has a clan of sisters and a shotgun hillbilly dad and Florence Menlove (Ann Harada) devoted to her husband the mayor, if only he would be more aggressive in the bedroom.
But Josh and Melissa, who suddenly find it impossible to escape, will find their relationship tested not just by ensemble singing but by temptation. Not unlike Pleasantville, getting home becomes the destination. But Schmigadoon! may not let you leave until you find “true love.”
The performances are all pitch-perfect here. While Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong retain a contemporary perspective and are given plenty of droll asides, the townsfolk deliver with absolute sincerity. As well as Alan Cumming, Fred Armisen and Kristin Chenoweth there are guest appearances from Jane Krakowski and Martin Short -what more could you want?
But it is the songs by Paul & Daurio that make this so enjoyable. Experts will pick the homages to Brigadoon, Oklahoma, Carousel and The Music Man in songs such as Corn Puddin’ or Lover’s Spat. The choreography is sharp and despite the 1940’s setting, there is colour-blind casting. Smart.
The series is lovingly directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family) and produced by Lorne Michaels (Saturday Night Live). …dang it, this is a pedigree that never stops.
Musicals as TV series don’t always work, and I don’t envisage this as a long run but at half hour episodes, it also doesn’t outstay its welcome.
The next question will be…. when does it become a bonafide stage musical?
Schmigadoon! begins today on Apple TV+