It’s 2021, and what we really need right now is a parody of 1950’s musicals. For too long, we’ve been slaves to their upbeat songs and wholesome morals, so it’s about time that eternally referenced sacred cows like Oklahama and State Fair were taken down a peg or two, right? Well, maybe not; the cultural fragmentation that’s on-going right now means that such musicals do indeed have their adherents, but the appeal of a specific parody is unlikely to cross-over to the many who studiously ignore them. That said, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio’s series for Apple tv does have plenty to recommend, not least the pitch perfect songs.
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, Schmigadoon! reworks the old chestnut of Brigadoon, a mysterious Scottish village that emerges from the mists every so often to entrap the unwary. That fantasy premise always sounded like it had legs as a horror franchise, but Schmigadoon! is very much a musical comedy. Two city slickers, Melissa and Josh (Keegan-Michael Key and SNL’s Cecily Strong) take time off from doctoring in NYC to go on a backpacking tour, and find themselves trapped in the magical village of Schmigadoon!. Over six episodes, they attempt to glean what they have to do to return to society, while engaging in trysts with the charming villagers they encounter.
The leads are played by experienced comic talents, and there’s a veritable who’s who on the side-lines, from Alan Cumming as a repressed mayor to Jane Krakowski as a sophisticate countess. Fred Armisen is a Methodist minister, Martin Short is a leprechaun, Schmigadoon! isn’t subtle, but it is as bright and brash as the sacred texts (The Music Man, The Sound of Music) that it parodies. The edge is that we’ve moved some way from such wholesome simplicity, but underestimating that bygone world trips up Melissa and Josh’s plans, in a Groundhog Day-style, every time.
Schmigadoon! would have worked better as a feature film, or theatre production, than as a series, where it lacks the kind of driving storyline that makes for a compelling returnable show. But as a meander round a cheerful pageant, there’s always something to engage, with Strong in particular having fun with her straight-laced character blossoming. While it’s unlikely to put bums on seats for Apple Tv, this is a diverting soufflé of a show, and catnip to those who know their musical theatre inside out.