Schmigadoon! on Apple TV Plus – review
The new musical parody series premieres later this week
Lockdowns, empty stages, socially distanced performances: no one is going to remember 2020-2021 as some new Golden Era of Musicals.
It's lucky then, that Ken Daurio and Cinco Paulhave stepped in and blessed the world with Schmigadoon! - a rollercoaster six-part series chock-full with musical parodies and whacky choreography.
The series follows tired twosome Melissa (star and producer Cecily Strong) and Josh (the ever charismatic Keegan-Michael Key) who, during a remedial camping minibreak, stumble on a strange town named Schmigadoon, where everyone seems to spontaneously burst into song – like some sort of thespy fever dream. But the pair are stuck there unless, according to a funky leprechaun (a very much unexpected guest star appearance from Martin Short), they find true love and cross a bridge out of captivity. Easy, having racked up five years as a couple, the pair think. But, like any good quaint romantic TV series, not everything is as simple as it might be. Several smooches and serenades later, Josh and Melissa's weary romance is tested in entirely new ways.
Produced by Lorne Michaels and filmed during the pandemic late last year, the show has the sort of zany humour you'd expect from the long-time SNL steward: there are brilliant twists on "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music (though by no means as family friendly), plus a camp-fanatically tragic turn from Alan Cummings as Mayor Menlove, thanks in part from the equally splendid performance from his rather oblivious wife, played with panache by award-winner Ann Harada.
The best appearance of all has to be Ariana DeBose as school mistress and secretive older sibling Emma Tate – who takes it upon herself to make Josh a better person. Between dancing across classroom tables and star-lit waltzes, the soon-to-be household name elevates every scene she's in. After The Prom and with her forthcoming appearance in ‘'West Side Story'', someone better get this performer in green and on the set of the Wicked movie – quickly.
Barry Sonnenfeld, responsible for big blockbusters like Men in Black or The Addams Family Values as well as culty-faves like the Netflix Series of Unfortunate Events, directs with a quirky, flat flare, giving the TV series a very deliberate ‘50s feel. Despite not having too many musical credits to his name, Sonnenfeld knows the best way to wow: keep cameras at a distance, with long, uninterrupted takes to help Christopher Gattelli's choreography sing. One number, featuring Kristen Chenoweth, a single take and some immense logistical planning, is an utter showstopper.
The message is quaint (as would be expected for a series that's largely a send-up of musicals of yore) and most characters are as deliberately wafer thin as can be, but there's a rare, inoffensive jollity to proceedings that keeps the show ticking over with infallible glee.
The series is released on 16 July.