Schmigadoon! With Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong
Reviewed by August Cosentino
To some people, the mere mention of “Broadway musicals” can make them cover their ears. To others, these words are pure catnip.
The genius of “Schmigadoon,” a charming six-episode series on Apple TV, is that it will make both crowds happy.
With a provenance of this sort who wouldn’t be happy? Produced by SNL’s Lorne Michaels, the show stars Keegan-Michael Key from Comedy Central’s Key and Peele and SNL’s Cecily Strong) as Josh and Melanie, a New York City couple whose relationship is on the rocks. To get things back on track, they attend a couples retreat out of town and suddenly…BOOM! They find themselves transported to a magical land called “Schmigadoon” (rhymes with—wait for it—Brigadoon.”)
Similar to the misty Scottish land from the 1954 Lerner & Loewe musical, Schmig is an imaginary land where time stopped about 100 years ago. To say the cheery residents, attired in straw boaters and hoop skirts, don’t get out much would be a understatement. Speaking of getting out, the only way for Josh and Mel to leave Schmig is to cross a stone bridge with the one they truly love (which is problematic since they’re on the outs.)
If you don’t like musicals, you’re in good company with Josh, who is a doctor by trade and who hates musicals. If you do like them, you’re also in luck. That’s because Schmig’s residents have an uncanny ability to burst into songs at the drop of a hat—songs that are parodies or spoofs of Broadway musical numbers that musical lovers (raises hand) will recognize in seconds.
These residents include bad boy Danny (young Aaron Tveit from “Moulin Rouge”) who delivers a near-perfect knockoff of Billy Bigelow’s soliloquy from “Carousel.” In another episode, a Countess (Jane Krakowski), based on the Eleanor Parker character from “The Sound of Music,” suddenly stands up while driving a car and belts out a parody of Cole Porter’s “Always True to You in my Fashion” from “Kiss Me Kate.” Kristen Chenowith, who plays Mildred Layton, the town’s holy roller, nearly steals the whole show with an alternative version of Professor Harold Hill’s “Trouble” from “The Music Man” (watch out, Hugh Jackman!)
And in the scene that truly takes the cake and any icing on top of it, Cecily Strong teaches the facts of life to a young pregnant woman and her baby daddy—to the tune of “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music” (lyrics appropriately and hilariously changed for the occasion.)
Cast also includes Alan Cumming as closeted mustachioed Mayor Aloysius Manlove; Ann Harada (from “Avenue Q”) as his long-suffering wife; Fred Armisen (“Portlandia”) as the local pastor who also turns out to be light in the loafers; and the lovely Ariana deBose (“The Prom”) as Emma Tate, the schoolteacher Josh thinks he may be in love with.
How will this “dilemma” resolve? Cmon, “Schmogadoon!” is a musical so it has to have a happy ending. But you’ll find some snarky, funny clever twists and turns along the way that will satisfy even the most determined musical haters. Which I’m proud to report would not include me.